Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Democrat Beshear re-elected Kentucky Governor, with notable support from rural voters

Major media outlets have just called today's gubernatorial race in Kentucky for Andy Beshear, the Democratic incumbent.  Beshear becomes only the second governor in the Commonwealth's history to serve two consecutive terms.  

Dave Wasserman, the political commentator, tweeted details of several nonmetro counties' election returns, with several showing that Beshear improved his margin over his Republican opponent this year, Daniel Cameron, compared to his margin over his Republican opponent four years ago, then-incumbent Matt Bevin.  

The counties mentioned here are Anderson (population 23,000), Bell (population 25,000), Nicholas (population 7,500), Taylor (population 26,000), along with Elliot (population 7,400) and Magoffin (population 12,000).  Wasserman characterized the latter two as eastern coalfields.

Then Wasserman tweeted (that is, posted on the platform now known as X) this, comparing Beshear's performance in rural Kentucky to that of other Democrats vying for statewide office: 

It says:  

So far, Beshear (D) is running 20-30 points ahead of other statewide Dem candidates on the margins in many of these rural counties, which is a decent early sign for him.  #KYGOV

More evidence of Beshear's rural prowess is found in this data point from Midas Touch.  It contrasts Beshear's margin with Trump's 2020 margin in nonmetro Letcher County.

Letcher County, population 21,548, is in the state's southeastern corner, which is Appalachian.  It happens to be home of the Center for Rural Strategies and Appalshop, both in Whitesburg, the county seat.  The area was badly flooded in late summer 2022.  

A student shared with me this AP piece written by Bruce Schreiner in December, 2022, which sheds light on Beshear's rural strategy.  The feature focuses on both Beshear's rural outreach and on his focus on meeting people's needs, on helping them.  It uses the word caring.  Here's an excerpt: 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday that Democrats have a better chance of connecting with rural voters in his home state and elsewhere when they talk about the things people need and the ways they can help them.
Schreiner quotes Beshear at length:
When we think about how do we communicate with our rural families, the first thing is to care about them. And to show that you care about them, and to earn their trust that you do truly care about them.
The AP story continues: 
Beshear said his party’s candidates need to show up with a core message centered on good-paying jobs, access to quality health care and good public schools — all issues that he sees as resonating with rural voters who have abandoned the party in droves in recent elections.

Beshear, who faces his own tough reelection fight next year in a state dotted with small towns and farms, is better positioned than most Democrats to talk about connecting with rural voters. He has maintained strong job approval ratings in a state where the GOP has become the dominant party.

Beshear has devoted much of his time as governor leading recovery efforts in rural areas of Kentucky stricken by devastating tornadoes a year ago and historic flooding earlier this year.

To make inroads in rural regions, candidates need to focus on the things that matter most to people — whether they’re making enough to support their families, can afford quality health care that’s accessible and can send their children to good schools.

Beshear extended Medicaid in Kentucky to include vision, hearing, and dental care.

Here's another direct quote from Beshear about vying for rural voters: 

I think Democrats should show up more in rural America because it’s America. Every person counts. The great lesson of COVID is that we all matter. And if we’re not lifting up every single part of Kentucky, we’re not doing our job.

On the caring theme, this Twitter thread is fun.  

I don't see any mention of rural people or places in the Washington Post's coverage of Beshear's victory today.   The Hannah Knowles report does note, however, that Kentucky is a "deep-red state."  The New York Times election night coverage also does not mention his rural outreach.  I expect a more in-depth feature tomorrow, and it'll be interesting to see if it notes the rural angle.  

I note that Beshear's Kentucky win with 52.5% of the vote exceeded the margin of Republican incumbent Tate Reeves, who prevailed over Democratic challenger Brandon Presley.  Reeves secured 51.8%.  In that race, a third party candidate won 1.4%.  

My earlier writing on statewide candidates' rural strategies--in particular that of U.S. Senator John Fetterman--is here and here.   

Postscript:  Here's a Nov. 13 Politico analysis of Beshear's win, featuring an interview with the governor's campaign manager, Eric Hyers.  

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