LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said next week's recanvass of the vote count in Kentucky's gubernatorial election won't be his last move in challenging the results, which showed him more than 5,000 votes behind Democrat Andy Beshear.
Beshear, meanwhile, said he's confident in the election outcome and is focused on taking office as governor in December. And some prominent Kentucky Republicans have begun calling on Beshear to concede.
"Whatever process that the governor chooses to go down, it's not going to change this overall number of votes," Beshear said at a news conference Wednesday. "We are going to take the steps to move forward to make sure that we are ready ... on the day that we're inaugurated."
Beshear led by less than 0.4 percentage points in Tuesday night's count of more than 1.4 million votes, which would trigger a recount in most states. Kentucky doesn't have a mandatory recount law, but Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes has scheduled a recanvass for Nov. 14 to ensure the vote count was added correctly.
Bevin said late Wednesday in Frankfort that his team is gathering evidence of what he's calling "irregularities" in the voting. The governor claimed that thousands of absentee ballots may have been illegally counted, and suggested that people may have been improperly turned away from the polls. He offered no specifics, and said such claims need corroboration.
"We're in the process of getting affidavits and other information that will help us to get a better understanding of what did or did not happen," he said. Bevin added that any information turned up won't be "followed through on" until after the recanvass — an indication he could seek further review of the election results.
Beshear's campaign responded with a statement repeating that he hopes Bevin honors the results. The campaign noted that a recanvass has never led to a reversal of an election result in Kentucky. "I don't know what information he's working off of," Beshear said earlier Wednesday, when asked about Bevin's claim of "irregularities."
The Associated Press has not declared a winner, in keeping with its policy not to call races that could go to a recount. Although there is no mandatory recount law in Kentucky, the AP is applying that same standard here. If Bevin does decide to press for a recount, he would need a court's approval.
Kentucky inaugurates its governors in the December following an election. Beshear — the son of Kentucky's last Democratic governor, Steve Beshear —named his top deputy in the attorney general's office, J. Michael Brown, to lead his transition team.
Beshear said his budget proposal in early 2020 will reflect his priorities on public education, health care and infrastructure, and promised quick action on some key campaign pledges. Those include appointing new members to the Kentucky Board of Education, rescinding Bevin's proposed work-related requirements for some Medicaid recipients and restoring voting rights for more than 140,000 nonviolent felons who completed their sentences.
Bevin said it's appropriate for his rival to form a transition team to be prepared to assume office if the review ends favorably for him.
While Bevin wasn't conceding, some prominent Kentucky Republicans have acknowledged that Beshear won.
Republican strategist Scott Jennings referred to Beshear as Kentucky's next governor, wishing him "godspeed" and saying he "ran a good race" in a social media post.
Also on social media, GOP state Rep. Jason Nemes said: "Governor-elect Beshear is entitled to the democratic legitimacy that comes with loser's consent. So let's go through the process honorably and expeditiously and give it to him."
The final hours of campaigning were dominated by President Donald Trump's endorsement of Bevin at an election eve rally in Lexington. Trump had loomed large in the race as Bevin stressed his alliance with the Republican president. But the combative Bevin struggled to overcome some self-inflicted wounds, including a running feud with teachers who opposed his efforts to revamp the state's woefully underfunded public pension systems.
Turnout was up by nearly 50% over Kentucky's 2015 governor's race, increasing from 974,000 voters to more than 1.4 million. That equaled turnout in Kentucky's 2014 race for U.S. Senate, rare for an election in an odd-numbered year. And while both parties gained voters, the gains were more dramatic for Beshear, particularly in counties where he fared best.