"Bevin shocks Conway" began the headline in Wednesday's Herald-Leader.
As I prepare to say goodbye, farewell and amen (again, and for good), pardon me if I appear immodest by saying the shock to me in Tuesday's election results had nothing to do with Bevin's win.
I was shocked because Jack Conway didn't take Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Attorney General-elect Andy Beshear down with him.
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday, I gave several of my Democratic acquaintances frequent heartburn by suggesting this could be the year Republicans swept the statewide constitutional elections. It almost happened.
My reasoning was simple. Except for their friends, family members and some diehard supporters, people don't turn out in droves to vote for down-ticket candidates. The governor's race brings the voters to the polls. While they're there, they fill in the squares for the other offices. If the gubernatorial candidate isn't mobilizing his or her party's base, everyone down the ballot is in trouble.
Conway, the Democratic attorney general, never gave rank-and-file Democrats or anyone else a reason to vote for him. He spent his time raising money. He didn't press the flesh much, except at fund-raisers. He had no discernible get-out-the-vote ground game. And he spent his money telling people they shouldn't vote for Republican businessman Matt Bevin because he was a tax-dodging, flip-flopping "East Coast con man." All stuff we had heard before when Bevin challenged U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Senate primary.
At some point, though, Conway needed to tell people why they should vote for him. How he differed from Bevin on health care, education, solving the state's public pensions crisis and other key issues.
I understand Conway did talk about those differences at fund-raisers and rallies. But the numbers at fund-raisers and rallies are small, and almost always involve people who are already true believers. The general public gets most of its insight into candidates from their advertising, and the contrasts between him and Bevin on the issues never made it into Conway's advertising to any significant degree.
Without that insight, Kentuckians once again voted against their own best interests, particularly in regard to health care.
During the midst of the campaign, Conway also managed to alienate two key components of the Democratic base. Louisville's African-American community when he was slow to react after Gov. Steve Beshear left the University of Louisville Board of Trustees without a black member for the first time since U of L joined the state system in 1970. Liberals everywhere when he declined to appoint a special prosecutor to consider official misconduct charges against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis for her refusal to issue marriage licenses in defiance of the law because of her opposition to gay marriages.
Yes, the racism inherent in the "Obama factor" came into play again, as it has in every Kentucky political campaign since 2008. But let's put the real blame where it belongs.
Jack Conway ran the lamest campaign of any Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial candidate in my memory. Since I'm 68 years old, the time span of my memory covers considerable ground.
In going down, Conway took Auditor Adam Edelen down with him. That's the only explanation for Edelen losing to state Rep. Mike Harmon, who spent very little money and has even less talent for the job he will assume in January.
The irony here is Democrats would have been much better off if Edelen, who flirted with the idea of running for governor but ultimately opted out, had been at the top of the ticket. He is by far the best retail politician the party has at the moment. Conway, if not holding the title exclusively, ranks among the worst.
State Rep. Rick Nelson and Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, the Democratic candidates for treasurer and agriculture commissioner, had no chance in this anti-Obama political climate in Kentucky. Grimes and Andy Beshear survived only because she spent millions enhancing her name recognition in her 2014 Senate challenge of McConnell and he has the same last name as his popular gubernatorial daddy who helped him raise millions for the attorney general's race.
If there is an upside for Democrats after Tuesday, it's because Republicans now have to defend two open state House seats (Harmon's and Ag Commissioner-elect Ryan Quarles') instead of Democrats having to defend two open seats if Nelson and Rep. Sannie Overly (Conway's running mate) had won.
Not sure that saves Democratic control of the House with a Republican in the Governor's Mansion, but it at least gives the party hope.
All that said, goodbye, farewell and amen. Again, and for good.
This is Larry Dale Keeling's final column for the Herald-Leader. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.