Beshear Wins

Democrat’s campaign focused on expanded gambling, ethics reform

FRANKFORT — Steve Beshear took off his suit jacket, fanned his face and continued shaking the hands of the supporters who helped elect him the next governor of Kentucky by a strong margin.

He spent more than 20 minutes talking to people who filled the Farnham Dungeon Civic Center in Frankfort, and kicked around confetti to the tune of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” after accepting Republican incumbent Ernie Fletcher’s concession last night just after 9.

“Tonight is the time to celebrate, and we will have a celebration,” Beshear said. “There are people around the state right now celebrating with us, there are others who are disappointed, but we all have something in common: Tomorrow we all become Kentuckians.”

The people in the crowd raised their hands in applause as other Democrats who won statewide offices — treasurer-elect Todd Hollenbach, incumbent and auditor-elect Crit Luallen, and attorney general-elect Jack Conway — joined Beshear and running mate Dan Mongiardo on stage.

“This is a great place to be tonight,” said Judi Patton, wife of former Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton. “What a party this is. Every Democrat should be proud — every Kentuckian should be proud of the leadership we have ahead of us.”

Beshear said he will start working on his priorities even before he takes office.

“There are so many things that need immediate attention,” Beshear said. “Ernie Fletcher has offered a smooth transition into office, which will help as I begin getting this state back on the right track.”

Beshear listed improving early-childhood development programs and funding a senior prescription-drug plan among his main legislative concerns.

The Dawson Springs, Ky., native won by about 17 percentage points, according to unofficial results from the Kentucky State Board of Elections. But earlier in his career, Beshear said he never thought he would be governor.

“Never would I have dreamed when I was at the University of Kentucky, even as president of the Student Government, that I would be here tonight,” Beshear said. “I wouldn’t have thought this was possible until November or December of last year. Fate has a funny way of working these things out.”

Beshear, who was elected as the state attorney general in 1979 and served as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Martha Layne Collins after the 1983 election, lost in the primaries in a run for governor in 1987.

This campaign was far from the failed attempt 20 years ago. Beshear led by more than 15 percentage points in the statewide SurveyUSA poll since winning the Democratic primary in May.

Beshear based much of his platform on saying he would restore ethical government to Frankfort, criticizing Fletcher for issuing pardons to his staff following an investigation on improper hiring practices.

Expanding legalized gambling to allow casinos in the state, which drew criticism from Fletcher, was another major piece of Beshear’s platform. In an interview with the Kernel on Oct. 8, Beshear called casino gambling “a means to an end” for Kentucky, saying it would bring in $500 million in additional tax revenue without actually raising taxes.

Beshear also said in interviews that he would push for the full funding of UK’s Top 20 Business Plan.

Luallen, who was re-elected as state auditor, said Beshear’s victory is the “icing on the cake” of a great Democratic ticket.

“What we’ve done tonight is more important than any one winner of any one ticket,” Luallen said. “It’s about a group of people working together for this state.”

Beshear won’t be sworn into office until the end of the year, but he said he will start working tomorrow to “bring together the commonwealth.”

“Tomorrow everything changes,” Beshear said. “I can’t say for sure where I’ll start. Tomorrow I will have breakfast with my family. I know that much.”