Republican Bevin elected governor of Kentucky
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Republicans continued their slow takeover of Kentucky politics Tuesday by electing only the second GOP governor in four decades.
Matt Bevin defeated Democrat Jack Conway with 52 percent of the vote. Independent Drew Curtis was a distant third with just more than 3 percent.
Republicans have dominated federal elections in Kentucky, but moderate Democrats have maintained control of state government. Bevin's election gives Republicans control of the executive branch along with a commanding majority in the state Senate. Democrats still have an eight-seat majority in the state House of Representatives. Bevin will succeed Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who is termed out of office.
Bevin cast himself as an outsider in government and politics. The 48-year-old investment manager has never held public office. He was shunned by the state's Republican political establishment when he challenged McConnell in the 2014 Senate primary. He never took any meaningful steps to repair those relationships after the race, often deflecting assistance from party officials and likely affecting his fundraising ability.
In Tuesday's only other gubernatorial race, Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant won re-election to a second term after spending $2.7 million in his campaign against Democrat Robert Gray, a truck driver who spent just $3,000.
Voters rejected a first-of-its-kind proposal Tuesday that would have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, following an expensive campaign, a legal fight over its ballot wording and an investigation into the proposal's petition signatures.
The constitutional amendment known as Issue 3 was targeted by a separate ballot issue — Tuesday's Issue 2 — that took aim at its network of 10 exclusive growing sites controlled by the campaign's deep-pocketed private investors. That issue banning monopolies from Ohio's constitution was leading with 53 percent of the statewide vote with about half of precincts reporting.
Voters approved a legislative redistricting overhaul that had been a priority of both political parties. Issue 1 revises the system for drawing the state's 33 state Senate and 99 state House districts. By giving the minority party a larger say, the proposal is intended to reduce gerrymandering of district boundaries for partisan purposes.
Just three states had general legislative elections Tuesday, although at least 10 others will hold special elections to fill vacant seats.
The biggest battle was for control of the Virginia Senate, where Republicans held off an attempt by Democrats to win a majority in the state Senate and maintained their 21-19 edge. A gain of just one seat by Democrats could have flipped control because Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam would serve as the tiebreaker.
The Senate races were expected to be among the most expensive in Virginia's history, with candidates and outside groups spending more than $10 million running more than 20,000 TV ads.
Republicans were expected to maintain majorities in the Virginia House and in Mississippi's two chambers. Democrats are looking to hold on to their majority in the New Jersey Assembly.
In Michigan, former lawmakers who were forced from office over an extramarital affair and a convoluted cover-up scheme lost longshot bids to win back their seats.
Tea Party leaders Todd Courser, who resigned rather than be expelled, and Cindy Gamrat, who was kicked out, sought the Republican nominations in special primary elections, which occurred less than two months after their Sept. 11 ouster.
Gamrat had 10 percent of the vote with 78 percent of precincts reporting in her former southwestern Michigan district — losing to Mary Whiteford, a former nurse who helps run her family's wealth management business. Courser had less than 4 percent of the vote with 61 percent of precincts reporting in his old Thumb-area seat. Farmer Gary Howell was leading in that race.
Political action committees for business groups and legislative leaders threw their financial support behind the candidates who finished second to Courser and Gamrat in the 2014 primaries — nurse Jan Peabody and Whiteford — along with Howell. An education policy group with ties to one of the state's Republican mega-donors mailed advertisements attacking Courser and Gamrat for misusing public resources to cover up the affair.
An ordinance that would have established nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people in Houston failed to win approval from voters on Tuesday.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was rejected after a nearly 18-month battle that spawned rallies, legal fights and accusations of religious intolerance and demonization of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.