UPSET: Bevin wins election in Kentucky to become only 2nd Republican governor in 4 decades
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - Republican businessman Matt Bevin was elected Kentucky's next governor on Tuesday in a setback for Democrats who had controlled the governor's mansion in every election but one since 1971, CNN projected.
Bevin, who rode Tea Party support to a narrow victory in a four-way Republican primary, defeated State Attorney General Jack Conway, whose late October lead in the polls evaporated on election day.
Bevin is a wealthy businessman from Louisville, best known for running the Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company, a bell manufacturing company that has been in his family for generations. In 2014, he ran in the Republican primary against incumbent-Senator Mitch McConnell.
While Kentucky is generally considered a "red state" - Republicans have control of both senate seats, five of six congressmen, and control of the state senate - the state has only elected two Republican governors since 1967.
The primary issue in the 2015 gubernatorial election in Kentucky was health care, in particular a Medicaid expansion under Democratic governor Steve Beshear, as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Conway, the Democratic nominee, was a strong supporter of the expansion, which brought Medicaid to nearly 10% of the state's population. Bevin, on the other hand, has opposed it, saying that he would stop enrolling new people into the program, according to The New York Times.
Another key difference was the candidates' response to Rowan County clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this year, citing religious objections. While Conway said he was open to creating a plan for religious objection exemptions, Bevin was unequivocal in his response.
"I absolutely support her willingness to stand on her First Amendment rights," he told The Courier Journal. "Without any question I support her."
In the 2012 election, Kentucky voters chose Republican candidate Mitt Romney over incumbent President Barack Obama by 22 percentage points, according to FiveThirtyEight.
(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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