WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear won reelection to Kentucky’s highest office Tuesday by improving upon the path to victory he carved in his successful 2019 bid.
That year, Beshear barely defeated Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, 49.2% to 48.8% — a margin of just over 5,000 votes. He did so by posting huge margins in the state’s Democratic strongholds, cobbling together wins or near-wins in a number of Republican-leaning areas, and minimizing the damage in traditionally safe Republican areas.
Beshear appears to have carried 29 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, all but two of them in counties Donald Trump carried in the 2020 presidential election. In comparison, he won 23 total counties four years ago.
Beshear was the overwhelming choice of voters who cast their ballots before Election Day, winning about 62%. Since the 2020 presidential election, Democrats tend to make up the lion’s share of pre-Election Day voting. More notably, Beshear held Republican nominee Daniel Cameron to a razor-thin edge in votes cast on Election Day, when Republicans are more likely to vote. Cameron received a fraction higher than 50% of the Election Day vote, while Beshear received a fraction below 50%.
In the safe Democratic counties of Fayette and Jefferson, Beshear won overwhelmingly with 72% and 70% of the vote, respectively, improving on his 2019 performance and driving up his overall statewide vote total. Fayette (home to Lexington) and Jefferson (home to Louisville) are the only two counties President Joe Biden carried in 2020.
Also key to Beshear’s victory were the seven swing counties Trump won in 2020 with less than 60% of the vote. In both 2023 and 2019, Beshear carried six of the seven counties, all but Oldham. He improved upon his 2019 performance in all seven counties.
Among them was Franklin County (home to the state capital Frankfort), where he bested his 2019 performance by 7 percentage points. Biden narrowly lost Franklin in 2020. In the swing counties of Kenton and Warren, the third and fifth most populous in the state, he barely edged out Bevin in 2019, but led Cameron by 4 to 5 percentage points.
Beshear performed better than other recent Kentucky Democrats in traditionally redder parts of the state. He won 10 of the 21 counties Trump won with 60% to 70% of the vote, up from 6 counties in 2019. He also prevailed in 11 of the 89 counties Trump won with more than 70% of the vote, up from nine counties in 2019.
In the counties Beshear lost, the incumbent still posted better numbers than other recent Democrats. Beshear lost 91 of the state’s 120 counties, but his combined 41% of the vote in these areas was slightly better than the 39% he received in 2019 and far better than the 25% President Joe Biden received in 2020.
Beshear still far underperformed his father’s two successful campaigns for governor. Steven Beshear defeated Republican incumbent Ernie Fletcher in 2007 with 59% of the vote and was reelected in 2011 with 56% of the vote. But Andy Beshear’s victory Tuesday shows that a significant part of the state is still willing to vote for the right Democrat. Twenty-one of the counties Beshear carried Tuesday were ones that he not only carried in 2019 but that his father also carried twice.