Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin launched his campaign talking about jobs and other economic issues, but he said Tuesday, the day voters go to the polls, that he believes social issues will carry him across the finish line in the Bluegrass State.
“We are a conservative state,” Bevin said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” as voters began casting ballots. “Fully two-thirds of Kentuckians are strongly pro-life. That’s important.”
Kentucky is one of two states with gubernatorial elections that are too close to call heading into Tuesday’s voting. The other is Louisiana, which has an open “jungle” primary with candidates from all parties. If no one clears 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers face off in a runoff.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is in a statistical dead heat with Democrat John Bel Edwards, but both men are far from the 50 percent threshold. Surveys have shown that Vitter would be an underdog against any of his competitors in a head-to-head match-up.
Political observers are watching both Kentucky and Louisiana for clues about how the electorate across the country might behave in next year’s presidential election. Both Vitter and Bevin are conservatives who have battled their own party leadership at times.
Kentucky has trended Republican for decades at the presidential level, but that electoral success has not trickled down to the local level. If he wins, Bevin would be just the third Republican elected governor in Kentucky since World War II.
In addition, Bevin said, 72 percent of all elected officials in Kentucky are Democrat.
That could explain why polls show Bevin’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, with a small lead through most of the campaign. A survey released Friday by Vox Populi suggests the race is a dead heat heading into Election Day.
Bevin said outside events have galvanized conservative voters — Kentucky’s Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s fight against same-sex marriage, and undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials haggling over compensation for fetal body parts with people they thought were representatives from a research lab.
Planned Parenthood is working phone banks for Conway, he said.
“He is a liberal through and through,” Bevin said. “We are offering the voters of Kentucky a very distinct choice. They really, truly should not be confused by liberal vs. conservative in this state.”
Bevin rankled Establishment Republicans by challenging the state’s senior senator, Mitch McConnell, in the GOP primary last year. But Bevin insisted the party is unified.
“The American dream is real,” he said. “And I think we must fight to keep it alive.”