On election eve, Gov. Steve Beshear said a big win for him and Jerry Abramson would signify that voters are sick of partisanship and obstructionism.
Beshear got his big win and we congratulate him.
But he shouldn't expect his victory to usher in a bright new era of bipartisan cooperation and progress, any more than his mandate from four years ago ushered in expanded gambling.
To get anything done, Democrat Beshear needs the Senate's Republican majority, just as much today as he did before defeating Senate President David Williams by a landslide.
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Securing the kind of support he needs in the Senate — and, for that matter, the Democratic House — will require putting a lot more effort into working the legislature than Beshear has done in the past.
In fact, if Beshear aspires to a legacy beyond "able caretaker" he'll have to up his game on several fronts. Such an overwhelming win should give him the confidence to do that.
Most important, Kentucky has to get smarter about economic development. The percent of Kentuckians who graduate from college is rising at a good pace, thanks to reforms begun in the 1990s. But the state isn't generating jobs for educated Kentuckians. Our per capita income will keep slipping and unemployment remain high unless the Beshear administration starts translating education gains into economic gains.
Beshear touted his job-creating successes during the campaign. But, surely, he recognizes that Kentucky will languish if its economic policy remains overly dependent on trading tax breaks for low-paying jobs.
Beshear could create jobs for scientists and engineers by building on what seemed to be a promising start on energy diversification early in his time in office. Kentucky has yet to join 32 states and the District of Columbia in adopting renewable energy portfolio standards, even though this was a plank in Beshear's energy plan.
Now that the election is behind him, Beshear should quit knuckling under to the coal industry's political muscle. History will smile on a governor who has the courage to curb the harm to mountains, water and public health from strip-mining.
And, at some point, Beshear has to buck up and tackle tax reform.
More immediately, he has millions in spending cuts still to make in this fiscal year. He also must cobble together a state budget for the next biennium without the non-recurring revenue and billions in federal aid on which recent budgets have been balanced.
We endorsed Beshear because he provided steady, sensible leadership during terrible economic times, while Williams has always seemed more interested in power and political brinkmanship than leadership.
If anyone should take away a message from this election, it's Williams and the Republican lawmakers who elevated him to his position of power.
Williams embodies both the style and substance of the Republican Senate in recent years, and voters didn't seem to like it one bit.