FRANKFORT — For reasons long forgotten (if they were ever known), we tend to use a lot of sporting metaphors when we're talking politics. So, consider Thursday's recanvass of vote totals in the Republican gubernatorial primary a not-so-instant replay confirming the original call.
Louisville businessman Matt Bevin retained the title of winner. Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer retained the title of presumed early favorite turned also-ran due to a mediocre if not woeful campaign that left him 83 votes short of the GOP nomination.
Hal Heiner, the other Louisville businessman in the primary, still finished third. He also ranks third (according to my aging memory) on the list of multimillionaire losers whose egos convinced them they could buy the Kentucky Governor's Mansion with their own money.
At last report, Heiner had contributed at least $4.2 million to his campaign. If he succumbed to a late wild hair, Republican Billy Harper's $6 million personal outlay in 2007 is not out of reach. No way, though, Heiner catches up to the $13.8 million Democrat Bruce Lunsford spent in failed gubernatorial campaigns ($8.1 million in 2003, $5.7 million in 2007). Not this year anyway. But who knows where Heiner's ego and wealth will lead him in the future.
(Bevin also was a largely self-financed candidate. At last report, he had contributed $1.25 million to his campaign, considerably less than Heiner.)
Former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott, the most entertaining candidate in the race, retained his position as a distant fourth who may wonder what might have been if he had the money to level the playing field with the uninspiring three who finished ahead of him.
Bevin won the primary for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was having the best TV ads and by most accounts the best mail campaign. But he also was aided by missteps in the Comer and Heiner camps.
Whoever thought they were helping Comer by exposing the connections Heiner's running mate KC Crosbie and her husband Scott Crosbie had with Michael Adams, who had been blogging about abuse allegations against Comer for months, really screwed up. Until then, the allegations were just out there in the non-mainstream blogosphere, where most folks wouldn't see them and anyone with a double-digit IQ who did probably would take them with multiple grains of salt.
Once the abuse allegations went from the blogosphere to the mainstream media, Marilyn Thomas, the woman in question, apparently became ticked enough to send a letter to The Courier-Journal detailing Comer's alleged abuse of her back in their college days. More devastating to Comer, she also claimed he took her to an abortion clinic, a real no-no for a Republican gubernatorial candidate.
Still, a sympathy vote for Comer in his home region in south-central Kentucky helped him keep it close. Unfortunately, his choice of state Sen. Christian McDaniel of Kenton County as a running mate didn't do diddly for him in Northern Kentucky. Bevin won the region handily, including in Kenton County.
Heiner's biggest problem was coming across as an unattractive candidate in his ads. To put it politely, when his lips were moving, his facial expression took on a sneering appearance. Plus the connections between the Crosbies and Adams made him look bad because, if he truly wasn't complicit in airing Comer's alleged dirty linen, he couldn't control his lieutenant governor candidate.
And KC Crosbie, a former Urban County Council member, didn't keep him from losing Fayette County to Bevin. Enough said about what running mates add to gubernatorial tickets.
When the Republican primary began, Bevin would have been every Democrat's choice to be Attorney General Jack Conway's opponent.
The Tea Party favorite alienated now U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by challenging him in the 2014 Senate primary and compounded this insult to Kentucky's GOP godfather by refusing to endorse McConnell in the general election. So, there is a question about how strongly McConnell will support Bevin in the governor's race.
Plus, as the Republican nominee, Bevin takes the "Louisville versus the rest of Kentucky" problem off the table for Conway. Now, it's one Louisville resident versus another Louisville resident.
But Conway missed a golden opportunity to define himself to voters positively while the Republican candidates were beating up on each other. He may come to regret that because his last experience running against a Tea Party favorite, in the 2010 U.S. Senate race against Rand Paul, didn't turn out so well.
Reach Larry Dale Keeling at firstname.lastname@example.org.