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Kentucky voters elect second Republican governor in four decades

US Republican Matt Bevin has narrowly won the Kentucky governor's seat, after his championing of controversial county clerk Kim Davis and opposition of Medicaid. He is only the second Republican governor in four decades.

Republican Matt Bevin (pictured) won the election for Kentucky governor on Tuesday. Bevin, who was only the second Republican elected to Kentucky's highest office in the past 44 years, defeated Democrat Jack Conway.

Bevin will replace Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, who wasn't able to run because of term limits.

Bevin announced his run for governor in January, and relied on support from the populist conservative tea party movement to narrowly grab victory over State Attorney General Jack Conway and Independent Drew Curtis, who was a distant third in Tuesday's election.

Conway had expressed his support for the expansion of Medicaid, which helps to provide health coverage to the poor. Bevin staunchly opposed the act based on ideological grounds.

Instead, his path to victory was helped by supporting religious conservatives and for his support of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed in September for defying a federal judge's order to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Looking ahead

Democrats still have an eight-seat majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives, but Bevin's win gives Republicans control of the executive branch as well as a commanding majority in the state Senate.

Attention will be focused on the Kentucky House elections in 2016, when US Senator Mitch McConnell is expected to help Republicans take over the state's legislative body, which is controlled by Democrats.

smm/jr (AP, Reuters)

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