Race for governor tops general election in Kentucky

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Here is a look at Kentucky’s top races in Tuesday’s general election, from the contest for governor at the top of the ticket to down-ballot races for statewide offices:

GOVERNOR: Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Matt Bevin square off in the race to become Kentucky’s next governor in a pivotal off-year election. The winner succeeds Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who could not seek re-election because of term limits. The campaign turned into a referendum on President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear used an executive order to expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover an additional 400,000 Kentucky residents and create a health exchange, where more than 100,000 people have purchased discounted health plans with the help of federal subsidies. Bevin, a Louisville businessman, has promised to scale back the expansion and eliminate the exchange, saying taxpayers can’t afford it. Conway, the state’s two-term attorney general, has called Bevin’s plan “callous” and said he would keep both programs. Independent candidate Drew Curtis was also on the ballot for governor.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: Republican lawmaker Whitney Westerfield and Democratic attorney Andy Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, are vying for the job as Kentucky’s chief law enforcement officer. The winner succeeds two-term Attorney General Jack Conway, who ran for governor. The AG’s campaign turned into a verbal sparring match, with Beshear insisting he’s standing on his own record as a candidate, but Westerfield said his opponent capitalized on his last name to rake in big piles of cash. The candidates attacked each other’s credentials for the jobs. Westerfield criticized Beshear’s lack of prosecutorial experience. Democrats pointed to a job evaluation early in Westerfield’s tenure as an assistant prosecutor that said he sometimes put personal interests over work.

SECRETARY OF STATE: Democratic incumbent Alison Lundergan Grimes seeks a second term a year after her unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, now the Senate majority leader. Grimes’ opponent was Steve Knipper, a former city council member in Erlanger. The secretary of state’s campaign was largely low key. Knipper criticized Grimes for running for the Senate in the midst of her term as secretary of state. Grimes pointed to her record since taking office. She said she pushed for several voting access improvements in the legislature and led an upgrade of the state’s online business portal.

AUDITOR: Democratic incumbent Adam Edelen faces a challenge from veteran Republican state Rep. Mike Harmon for the job as Kentucky’s chief financial watchdog. Harmon touted his conservative credentials, while Edelen pointed to his record as auditor. He said he returned millions of dollars to taxpayers, pushed to clear the state’s backlog of untested rape kids and launched investigations that landed corrupt officials in jail. Edelen has been mentioned as a potential challenger to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in next year’s Senate race in Kentucky.

TREASURER: Republican Allison Ball, a political newcomer, runs against veteran Democratic lawmaker Rick Nelson in a matchup of candidates from Appalachia. Nelson cited his experience as a legislator and a retired teacher. Ball says her background as an attorney helping people through bankruptcies has prepared her to be a watchdog of state finances. Ball also wants to be more assertive in a job she says has been underutilized. The incumbent state treasurer, Democrat Todd Hollenbach, is finishing his second term and can’t serve again because of term limits. The treasurer balances the state’s checkbook, collects and returns unclaimed property and handles other financial duties.

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER: Republican state Rep. Ryan Quarles and Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson Spann touted their rural pedigrees in competing to be Kentucky’s next agriculture commissioner. Quarles raised crops on his family’s central Kentucky farm to help pay for college, where he studied agricultural economics on his way to becoming a lawyer. Spann cited her experience as an agribusiness executive and host of a long-running weekly radio show on farm issues. The office promotes Kentucky farms and oversees a number of regulatory functions, ranging from the sale of eggs to animal health to making sure gasoline pumps and grocery store scales are accurately calibrated.


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