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Wed. 9:38 a.m.: Beshear claims victory in Kentucky; Bevin refuses to concede

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, along with lieutenant governor candidate Jacqueline Coleman, acknowledge supporters at the Kentucky Democratic Party election night watch event Tuesday in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s bitter race for governor went into overtime as Democrat Andy Beshear declared victory while Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, a close ally of President Donald Trump, refused to concede with results showing he trailed by a few thousand votes.

Kentucky has some sorting out to do before inaugurating its next governor.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Beshear — the state’s attorney general and the son of Kentucky’s last Democratic governor, Steve Beshear — had a lead of 5,333 votes out of more than 1.4 million counted, or a margin of less than 0.4 percentage points. The Associated Press has not declared a winner.

In competing speeches late Tuesday, Beshear claimed victory while Bevin refused to concede.

“My expectation is that he (Bevin) will honor the election that was held tonight,” Beshear said. “That he will help us make this transition. And I’ll tell you what, we will be ready for that first day in office, and I look forward to it.”

That first day isn’t far off. Kentucky inaugurates its governors in the December following an election.

Bevin, meanwhile, called the contest a “close, close race” and said he wasn’t conceding “by any stretch.”

“We want the process to be followed, and there is a process,” he said.

Bevin won the 2015 GOP primary for governor by a scant 83 votes, noting wryly Tuesday night: “Would it be a Bevin race if it wasn’t a squeaker?”

The margin is much larger this time. Bevin hinted there might be “irregularities” to look into, but didn’t offer specifics. His campaign didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking an explanation.

There is no mandatory recount law in Kentucky. Bevin may request counties recanvass their results, which is not a recount, but rather a check of the vote count to ensure the results were added correctly. Bevin would need to seek and win a court’s approval for a recount.

“The margin is large enough to not have a reasonable expectation that it can be closed with anything outstanding,” Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office said in a statement. “The process laid out by the law will be followed and all candidates do have a recourse to review or challenge their results.”

Grimes, a Democrat, has overseen 20-plus recanvasses during her two terms as secretary of state, her office said. The results never changed significantly enough to flip the outcome of a race, it said.

The final hours of campaigning were dominated by the endorsement Bevin received from Trump at a boisterous rally Monday night in Lexington, Kentucky. Through a spokesman, the president boasted Tuesday night about the boost he had given the incumbent governor despite Bevin finishing with fewer votes to his name.

“The president just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “A final outcome remains to be seen.”

Trump had loomed large in the race as Bevin stressed his alliance with the Republican president in TV ads, tweets and speeches. Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide in winning the presidency in 2016 and remains popular in the state. The president took center stage in the campaign with his election eve rally to energize his supporters to head to the polls for his fellow Republican.

But the combative Bevin had been struggling to overcome a series of self-inflicted wounds, highlighted by a running feud with teachers who opposed his efforts to revamp the state’s woefully underfunded public pension systems.

Bevin lagged well behind the vote totals for the rest of the GOP slate for statewide offices. Republican candidates swept Kentucky’s races for attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and agriculture commissioner.

Trump took credit this morning for the near sweep, tweeting, “Our big Kentucky Rally on Monday night had a massive impact on all of the races,” and claiming that Bevin “picked up at least 15 points in last days, but perhaps not enough (Fake News will blame Trump!).”

Meanwhile, the Libertarian candidate for governor, John Hicks, got 2 percent of the vote.

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