Politics & Government

Kentucky Senate president says Bevin should concede if recanvass upholds vote totals

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers said Friday Gov. Matt Bevin should concede Tuesday’s election for governor if a recanvass next week does not dramatically change the vote totals.

“That’s just my personal opinion. I think it then would be time to call it quits, but it’s his choice what to do next,” said Stivers.

Bevin, a Republican, has asked for a recanvass of the statewide vote totals that show him trailing 5,189 votes behind Attorney General Andy Beshear in this year’s race for governor.

Bevin has refused to concede, alleging fraud and various voting irregularities on Election Day. He has offered no evidence of any voting problems.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has scheduled the recanvass for next Thursday. It involves county clerks’ checking vote totals they sent to the State Board of Elections. Grimes has said no recanvass has ever changed a statewide race in Kentucky.

If Bevin is not satisfied with the recanvass results, he has the option of contesting the election to the state legislature.

Stivers said Bevin has “a high bar to succeed” in a complaint to lawmakers.

The legislative leader said he has not talked to Bevin about what course he should take concerning the election results. “Again, that’s up to him,” Stivers said. “The constitution says if he contests the election, the legislature shall hear it.”

He said he was not aware of any legislator who wants to be involved in deciding the outcome of the election.

House Majority Floor Leader John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, said Friday he sees no need for lawmakers to consider the election results “unless there is overwhelming evidence to do so.”

Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, said he does “not relish the thought of a contested election but we don’t have a choice” if Bevin wants to pursue that.

State House Republicans appear prepared to get to know Beshear better.

Carney said Beshear is being invited to attend the House GOP caucus’ retreat Dec. 11-13 at Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Western Kentucky, “given that he ends up as governor.”

Carney said House Speaker Dave Osborne, R-Prospect, “wanted to do that to get off on the right foot that we need to come together and work on issues to better Kentucky.”

He quickly added, “But we still have an agenda we are going to push — same one as we’ve been working on the last two to three years — but he is invited.”

Asked how a good working relationship could develop between Beshear and the legislature when lawmakers begin the 2020 General Assembly in January, Carney said, “a lot will be determined on how he responds early on to us.

“We are willing to give him a chance to move to the middle, but if he wants to stay too far left, he will have a hard time working on issues.”

He said there is “common ground” for the sides to find agreement, especially in school funding.

But Carney said the House is not likely to follow Beshear’s call for expanded gambling with casinos, but he left open the door for sports betting.

“There’s not a lot of support, particularly among rural members for casinos, but there will be a healthy discussion on sports betting,” he said. “It’s premature to say whether it will happen but it probably has an opportunity.”

He said lawmakers “would love to provide $2,000 pay increases for teachers, but where will the money come from?”

“Beshear didn’t answer that on campaign trail,” he said. “Unless Beshear can come forward with a plan on how to do that, that will be hard to do.”

Both Carney and Givens, speaking at the Kentucky Hospital Association Health Care Leadership Conference in Lexington, said state revenue is up, but so are costs for pensions, prisons and employee health care.

Carney also said he sees no need for the 2020 General Assembly to revisit its new law that removed the secretary of state as chair of the state elections board.

The 2019 General Assembly approved that measure to limit the power of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

She could not seek re-election this year because of term limits, and her replacement, newly elected Michael Adams, a Republican, has said he would like to be chairman of the elections board.

“We don’t need to go back and change it because of politics,” said Carney. “If it were good policy to make changes this year, it should be good policy next year.”

Jack Brammer is Frankfort bureau chief for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has covered politics and government in Kentucky since May 1978. He has a Master’s in communications from the University of Kentucky and is a native of Maysville, Ky.
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