On Thursday, more than a week after its gubernatorial election, Kentucky finally has the official results of the race: Democrat Andy Beshear, the state's attorney general, has unseated Republican incumbent Matt Bevin. The initial vote count showed Beshear beating Bevin by 5,189 votes, less than half of a percentage point. That's close, but it doesn't trigger an automatic recount since Kentucky doesn't actually allow recounts in gubernatorial elections. But it does allow for candidates to call for a "recanvass," essentially a recount that doesn't involve going through court systems. And unlike a recount, any candidate is allowed to call for a recanvass no matter how far apart the totals are.
Bevin did in fact call for the recanvass, claiming, without evidence, that there had been voting irregularities. During the recanvass, not a single vote changed for either Bevin or Beshear. At a press conference on Thursday, Bevin conceded. "I'm not going to contest these numbers that have come in. I truly wish the attorney general well as the next governor of this state as he assumes these responsibilities." He added, "I love the fact that we're blessed to live in a nation where things do transition in ways that much of the world wishes they had."
That was a shift from earlier rhetoric. The day after the election, Robert Stivers, president of the Republican-controlled Kentucky senate, said that the state legislature might have to step in to decide the results of the race, rather than go by the official vote count. He cited a portion of the Kentucky constitution that reads, "Contested elections for Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be determined by both Houses of the General Assembly, according to such regulations as may be established by law."
University of Louisville law professor Sam Marcosson told the Courier Journal that the legislature had never established any such regulation though, so if state Republicans followed through they would essentially be making up the process as they went. And all of that would be based on Bevin's claims of irregularities. "If the House and Senate were just to proceed on vague allegations without proof, that raises serious questions about disenfranchisement of the voters who voted for Attorney General Beshear. It’s an extraordinary proposition to suggest that the General Assembly would take vague allegations of unspecified irregularities and call into question a gubernatorial election."
It wouldn't be the first case of state Republicans trying to make an end run around an election they lost. After Republican governors lost their reelection bids in North Carolina in 2016 and Wisconsin in 2018, the GOP-controlled legislatures immediately passed bills significantly stripping the governor of executive powers. Both instances were successfully challenged in court, but it's indicative of the extreme measures some Republicans are willing to take if they seem poised to lose power—they couldn't win at the ballot box, so instead they tried to change the laws so that their loss doesn't matter.
Bevin styled himself as an ally of Donald Trump, and the president campaigned heavily for him in the weeks leading up to the election. Even in a state that Trump won by a 30-point margin, he couldn't buoy the deeply unpopular Bevin, who gained a reputation for running his mouth, fits of hyperbole, and attacking the state's public school teachers. Still, some political prognosticators claim that Bevin's loss isn't a great sign for Trump going into 2020, and Donald Trump Jr. and Fox News tried to spin the race as unwinnable immediately after the election, claiming that Bevin had been an unsalvageable candidate.
During the recanvass in Kentucky, election officials did find one ballot that hadn't been counted the first time through: a vote for write-in candidate "Blackii Effing Whyte."
Local newspapers like The Fresno Bee have long been an endangered institution in America, and that was before California Rep. Devin Nunes began waging a public campaign against his hometown paper. Zach Baron spent time with the reporters fighting to keep news alive in an age when the forces they cover are working equally hard to destroy them.
Originally Appeared on GQ