Kentucky gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2023

The 2019 Kentucky gubernatorial election is shaping up to be a contentious and high-stakes race. Republican incumbent Matt Bevin is facing a tough challenge from Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear. The election is on November 5th, 2019, and will be closely watched nationally as an indicator for 2020. This close contest has major implications for Kentucky on key issues like pensions, education, healthcare, and jobs.

Background on Kentucky Politics

Kentucky has historically leaned conservative, voting Republican in national elections. Democrats had held the governorship for decades until Matt Bevin flipped it to GOP control in 2015. Bevin has faced backlash on issues like pension reform. Democrat Beshear narrowly won election as Attorney General in 2015 on a pro-public education platform. This set up the bitter 2019 showdown.

Current Governor Matt Bevin

Matt Bevin was elected governor in 2015, riding a Republican wave in Kentucky. The businessman campaigned as a political outsider. As governor, Bevin made controversial changes like overhauling the state pension system which angered teachers. He alienated voters on other issues like higher education cuts. Bevin has closely aligned himself with President Trump who won big in Kentucky. He hopes riding the president’s coattails will carry him to a second term.

The Candidates

The three main contenders in the race are:

  • Republican – Incumbent Matt Bevin: The current governor elected in 2015. Running on his conservative record and ties to Trump.
  • Democrat – Andy Beshear: The state’s Attorney General. Running on a pro-education, pro-healthcare platform against Bevin’s policies.
  • Libertarian – John Hicks: A first-time candidate and heavy underdog. Running on a fiscally conservative, socially liberal platform.
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Key Issues

Some of the major issues that will help decide this election include:


Bevin has worked to reform Kentucky’s struggling public pension systems. He pushed controversial policies like transitioning new teachers to hybrid retirement plans. This angered educators and state workers, triggering massive protests. Restoring pension benefits is a key issue for Beshear.


Education funding and standards have dominated the race. Beshear has promised raises for teachers and wants to replace the state school board appointed by Bevin. Bevin touts charter schools and education savings accounts. The two have clashed over education policies as attorney general and governor.


Healthcare access and affordability are concerns, especially in rural parts of Kentucky. Beshear wants to protect Medicaid expansion done through Obamacare. Bevin has supported imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients. The candidates also clash over women’s reproductive rights.

Jobs and Economy

Bevin touts Kentucky’s economic growth during his term. Beshear says Bevin’s policies have hurt workers and promises higher wages. Beshear wants to diversify Kentucky’s economy beyond coal mining which has declined. Bevin wants to revive the coal industry through deregulation.

Voters and Demographics

Turnout among key demographics could decide this close race:

  • Public school teachers and union members
  • State workers impacted by pension changes
  • Rural healthcare recipients on Medicaid
  • Evangelical Christians
  • Blue-collar workers in manufacturing and mining
  • Suburban women voters

Campaign Ads and Strategies

With polls showing a tight contest, both sides are attacking hard in ads:

  • Bevin ties Beshear to national Democrats like Pelosi and Obama’s “war on coal.” Portrays Beshear as “too liberal” for Kentucky.
  • Beshear hits Bevin for embarrassing the state and bullying teachers and workers. Says Bevin is only out to help millionaires.
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Beshear must separate himself from the national party to appeal to moderate Republicans. Bevin is relying heavily on Trump’s help to boost his poor favorability ratings. This race looks like it will come down to which side turns out their base.

Polling and Predictions

Recent polls show a dead heat race:

  • Mason-Dixon poll had Bevin & Beshear tied at 46% each.
  • Cygnal poll had Beshear up 47% to 46% over Bevin.
  • Beshear led by 5 points in a summer Emerson College poll.

This looks like a pure toss-up. Kentucky’s conservative lean suggests a slight edge to the incumbent. But Bevin is the most unpopular governor in the country according to polling. Beshear has a chance if he keeps the race focused locally. This will be a major pickup chance for Democrats in an otherwise red state.

Potential National Implications

National observers will look for clues about the 2020 presidential race in Kentucky’s results:

  • A Beshear win shows vulnerability for Trump in red states. It suggests backlash to 2016 GOP policies could be real.
  • A Bevin win confirms Kentucky as firmly Republican. It shows Trump’s coattails can overcome GOP weaknesses.

The relative margin of victory will also be monitored closely. This race is a must-win for Bevin as the incumbent.

Election Process and Timeline

The governor’s race will culminate on November 5th, but important dates remain:

  • October 7th – Last day to register to vote
  • October 29th – Last day to request an absentee ballot
  • November 4th – Last day of in-person early voting
  • November 5th – Election Day polls open 6 AM to 6 PM local time
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Bevin and Beshear will continue battling over airwaves and crisscrossing the state to get out their base up until Election Day. Expect campaigning to ramp up even further in these critical closing weeks.


The Kentucky governor’s race between Matt Bevin and Andy Beshear will come down to the wire. The final outcome depends on which party does a better job motivating its base and winning over independents troubled by Bevin’s leadership. Beshear is considered a slight favorite, but in deep red Kentucky it’s anyone’s race. Kentucky voters need to consider the two very different visions for the state’s future being offered this November. This hard-fought election truly has massive implications that will be felt for years to come.


Who is the current governor of Kentucky?

The current governor of Kentucky is Republican Matt Bevin, who was first elected in 2015.

Who is running against Bevin for governor?

Bevin’s main opponent in the 2019 election is Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat. Libertarian candidate John Hicks is also running.

What is the most important issue in the election?

Key issues include pensions, education, healthcare, and jobs. But the poor popularity of Bevin has made the election a referendum on his leadership.

When is the Kentucky governor election?

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5th, 2019. In-person early voting runs from October 28 to November 4.

How have polls and predictions looked?

Polling shows an extremely close race that is anyone’s to win. Bevin likely holds a slight edge due to Kentucky’s conservative tendencies.

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