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Election 2019 Recap

Renee Shaw and her guests discuss the 2019 election. Scheduled guests: Tres Watson, former spokesman for the Kentucky Republican Party and founder of Capitol Reins; Kelsey Cooper, a Republican strategist and communications director for U.S. Senator Rand Paul; Jonathan Miller, former Democratic state treasurer; and Christian Motley, a Democratic strategist.
Season 26 Episode 39 Length 56:35 Premiere: 11/11/19


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis on major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw. Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form.
For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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The Kentucky Tonight podcast features each episode’s audio for listening.

Renee Shaw is Moderator and Director of Public Affairs for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums.

Since joining KET in 1997, Shaw has produced numerous KET public affairs series and specials, including KET’s nationally recognized legislative coverage. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, town hall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

As an award-winning journalist, Shaw has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and an award from the Kentucky Associated Press for political coverage of the state legislature. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; and, in 2015, received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.  

In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a six-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Analyzing the Political Impact of Kentucky’s 2019 General Election

On Thursday, Nov. 14, at the request of Gov. Matt Bevin, county clerks around the commonwealth will launch a review of the vote totals in the gubernatorial race.

At stake is whether the recanvass reveals any improprieties that would allow the incumbent Republican to challenge the election results that currently give Democrat Andy Beshear the victory by just over 5,000 votes.

KET’s Kentucky Tonight discussed the recanvass and other election stories with Kelsey Cooper, a Republican strategist and communications director for U.S. Senator Rand Paul; Jonathan Miller, former Democratic state treasurer; Christian Motley, a Democratic strategist in Lexington; and Tres Watson, former spokesman for the Kentucky Republican Party and founder of Capitol Reins PR. The show also featured an interview with University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas, who specializes in voting issues.

Contesting a Gubernatorial Election

The recanvass comes after what Bevin called voting “irregularities” in last week’s elections.

University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas says state law has no provisions for a formal recount of gubernatorial elections. So if Bevin remains dissatisfied with the outcome of the recanvass, he would have to contest the election to the Kentucky General Assembly.

Douglas says lawmakers would randomly select three senators and eight representatives to hear evidence and make a formal report to the full legislature. Then a joint session of the General Assembly would decide to uphold or overturn the election results. But several GOP and Democratic lawmakers have already said Bevin should concede the election if the recanvass doesn’t substantially change the vote totals.

“Having a recanvass is entirely appropriate,” says Jonathan Miller. “The real problem is the unsubstantiated claims of irregularities… That kind of discussion just further undermines confidence in the voters and in the system, and that’s troubling.”

Kelsey Cooper and Tres Watson agree that a recanvass is warranted given the close outcome of the race. The unofficial results give Attorney General Andy Beshear the win by 5,189 votes out of 1.4 million ballots cast last week. Watson says a candidate can’t contest an election simply because they don’t like the outcome. He says that the candidate must provide some evidence of an abnormality.

“Part of me wonders if Gov. Bevin [is] saying things purely to maintain a purity of his argument that there was an abnormality in case something pops up through the recanvass process,” says Watson.

Cooper says voter trust in elections is at risk the longer Bevin drags out his fight. She says barring any evidence of irregularities, Republicans are ready to move on and celebrate the victories they did achieve in all the other races for statewide office.

Analyzing Beshear’s Apparent Victory

Meanwhile, Democrats like Christian Motley are enjoying their one victory from last week.

“A win is a win, says Motley. “Andy Beshear is our governor-elect and we look forward to seeing him govern, and govern in a way that really is about building consensus and moving the state forward.”

As a candidate, Beshear was underestimated throughout the primary and general election, according to Miller. But he says the Democrat overcame the Republican tide in Kentucky by running a disciplined campaign, mounting an extensive get-out-the-vote effort, and by being a model of integrity and respect.

“This election was ultimately determined on the issue of how we treat people – love your neighbor as yourself,” says Miller. “Kentucky voted in a way to recognize this biblical value… and to me that’s a thing that Democrats and Republicans can be proud of.”

Watson also acknowledges the strength of Beshear’s voter turnout efforts, but he also says that work didn’t benefit down-ballot Democrats.

“I’d say probably 25-30% of those people that they turned out to vote against Matt Bevin… voted for Andy Beshear and then voted straight Republican all the way back down [the ticket], says Watson. “Their ground game ensured that only one Democrat won.”

Since Beshear failed to garner even 50% of the vote, Cooper says the Democrat doesn’t have a mandate to govern. She contends the election was more about personality than party or policy.

“I don’t think people checked the box for a Democrat versus a Republican,” says Cooper. “I think it was Gov. Bevin or somebody else.”

Working with the Legislature

Assuming he does become governor, Beshear will have to work with GOP supermajorities in the state House and Senate. Republican leaders in the House invited Beshear to attend their annual retreat next month to discuss issues lawmakers will face in the 2020 legislative session.

“My hope is that they can begin a conversation that makes those first weeks of [the legislative] session productive,” says Motley.

Miller says he thinks Democrats and Republicans could find consensus on sports betting, medical marijuana, and education reforms. And he says Beshear has the benefit of a good mentor in his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, who enjoyed a productive working relationship with Senate President Robert Stivers.

“There’s going to be fights here,” says Miller. “It’s not going to be all singing Kumbaya in harmony, but I do see a lot of opportunity for folks working together.”

Cooper agrees that Beshear’s best path to success is through bipartisan efforts to pass legislation. She says the Democrat needs to remember that Republicans still hold much of the power in Frankfort.

“The only thing that really would make me upset about this is that if [Beshear] gets credit for all of the GOP agenda,” says Cooper.

Beshear has pledged to rescind the Bevin Administration’s Medicaid waiver and to appoint new people to the state board of education. Watson says the Democrat must be careful in how he uses his executive powers, since Republicans have the power to enact legislation and override any vetoes.

“Robert Stivers and [House Speaker] David Osborne really control the state at this point,” says Watson. “If they chose to flex that legislative muscle, they could completely shut down anything Andy Beshear wanted to do.”

A Boost for Democrats

Could a 5,000-vote win in one race put Democrats on the path to revival in the commonwealth? Probably not, says Watson, given the dominant performance of the down-ballot Republicans.

“If I’m a Democrat out in rural Kentucky thinking about running to get back one of these [legislative] seats that Democrats have lost,” says Watson, “there’s nothing in those numbers that would encourage me to get in that race.”

But Miller says Beshear’s victory does give Democrats something they haven’t had during the four years that Republicans held the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the legislature – a prominent elected official to lead fundraising efforts for future elections.

“It becomes really, really difficult to raise money and to generate excitement and build grassroots support” without such a figure, says Miller.

He says that it’s incumbent on Beshear to help motivate donors large and small to give to Democratic candidates. By building that financial support, he says the party will have the funds it needs to mount a comeback. But Watson cautions that Beshear will have to navigate the tricky waters of working with Republicans on legislation he wants while raising money for Democrats to challenge those GOP lawmakers for seats in the General Assembly.

Unpacking Other Results

Daniel Cameron made history on Nov. 5 when he became the first African American elected to statewide office in Kentucky. The Republican and Louisville attorney defeated former House Speaker Greg Stumbo in the race for attorney general. (Current Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton had the distinction of being the first African American elected on a statewide ticket when she ran with Gov. Bevin in 2015.)

Miller says the fact that the 33-year old Cameron could win in a majority-white state with a legacy of troubled race relations is something that Kentuckians can celebrate.

Another political newcomer, Republican Michael Adams, defeated Democratic stalwart Heather French Henry in the race for secretary of state. That result was the closest of the down-ballot contests with Adams garnering 52% of the vote to Henry’s 48%.

Miller says Henry, who served in the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs under Gov. Bevin and former Gov. Steve Beshear, wanted to run a positive campaign, which he says contributed to her defeat. He says it’s difficult to win in this political climate when you don’t draw contrasts between you and your opponent.

Watson says both candidates avoided going overtly negative in the race. Even though Henry raised more money than Adams, Watson says the Democrat spent her funds on consultants and travel, while the Republican devoted his money to targeted media buys.

Cooper contends the Secretary of State’s race represents a lost opportunity for Democrats because she says Henry is well-liked among Republicans for her work with veterans. She says Henry could have won if she had been advised correctly.

The biggest vote-getter among all the candidates on the ballot last week was Allison Ball. The Republican incumbent state treasurer secured 850,000 votes in her defeat over Democrat Michael Bowman.

Despite losing to incumbent Auditor Mike Harmon, Democrat Sheri Donahue has a bright future, according to Miller. He says Donahue ran a strong primary campaign this year to get the Democratic nomination for auditor, and she had a competitive race in her bid to unseat state Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Jefferson County last year.

Finally, Republican incumbent Ryan Quarles sailed to victory in his race to be re-elected as commissioner of agriculture. Watson says Quarles, Ball, and Cameron, who are all under 40 years of age, provide Republicans a formidable bench for the future.

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Season 26 Episodes

Public Education Issues for the 2020 General Assembly

S26 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/16/19

Gubernatorial Transition

S26 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/09/19

City and County Issues

S26 E41 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 11/25/19

Hemp's Impact

S26 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/18/19

Election 2019 Recap

S26 E39 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 11/11/19

Election 2019 Preview

S26 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/04/19

Candidates for Governor

S26 E37 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/28/19

Lieutenant Governor Candidates

S26 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/21/19

Attorney General Candidates

S26 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/14/19

Secretary of State

S26 E34 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 10/07/19

Commissioner of Ag; Auditor of Public Accounts; State Treas

S26 E33 Length 1:26:40 Premiere Date 09/30/19

K-12 Public Education

S26 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/09/19

Public Assistance and Government Welfare Programs

S26 E31 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 08/26/19

Energy in Kentucky

S26 E30 Length 56:40 Premiere Date 08/12/19

Public Pension Reform

S26 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/29/19

Quasi-Governmental Pensions

S26 E28 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 07/22/19


S26 E27 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 07/15/19

Public Education

S26 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/16/19

Immigration and Border Security

S26 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 07/08/19

Prospects for Criminal Justice Reform

S26 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/01/19

Issues in the 116th Congress

S26 E21 Length 56:37 Premiere Date 06/24/19

Trends Influencing the 2019 General Election

S26 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/10/19

Previewing the 2019 Primary Election

S26 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/20/19

Democratic Primary Candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor

S26 E18 Length 1:56:41 Premiere Date 05/13/19

Republican Attorney General Candidates, Primary Race 2019

S26 E17 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 04/15/19

Candidates for Secretary of State 2019 Primary

S26 E16 Length 1:26:35 Premiere Date 04/08/19

State Auditor; State Treasurer, Primary Election 2019

S26 E15 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/01/19

Commissioner of Agriculture, Primary Election

S26 E14 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/25/19

2019 General Assembly

S26 E13 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/18/19

Legislation in the 2019 General Assembly

S26 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/18/19

Ongoing Debate on Sports Betting

S26 E12 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/25/19

Bail Reform

S26 E11 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/18/19

Medical Marijuana

S26 E10 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/04/19

Recapping the Start of the 2019 General Assembly

S26 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/14/19

2019 General Assembly

S26 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/07/19

Special Session on Pensions/Education Issues

S26 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/17/18

Medicaid in Kentucky

S26 E5 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/10/18

Immigration Issues

S26 E4 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/03/18

Mass Shootings, Gun Safety, and Concealed Carry Laws

S26 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/19/18

Recap of Election 2018

S26 E2 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 11/13/18

Election 2018 Preview

S26 E1 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/05/18

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