Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Rural voters the difference in Ky. gubernatorial election; GOP winner to revise Medicaid expansion

By Tim Mandell
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues

Kentucky, which has been at the forefront of Medicaid expansion, the "war on coal" and the battle over same-sex marriage, on Tuesday elected a conservative Republican as its next governor, only the second time the state has elected a Republican governor since 1971. The credit, or blame, depending on your opinion about Governor-elect Matt Bevin, goes to the state's rural voters, who have now turned the state red. Both of the state's U.S. senators are Republicans, and five of its six House members are Republicans. The state Senate is Republican-controlled, while the state House is Democrat-led, the last such chamber in the South.

Bevin, who won overall with 52.5 percent of the votes to 43.8 percent for Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, scored big in rural areas. He earned 50 to 59.9 percent of the votes in 56 counties; 60 to 69.9 percent in 32 counties; 70 to 79.9 percent in 12 counties—mostly in Eastern Kentucky coal country—and 83.4 percent in Jackson County, a solidly Republican county in Eastern Kentucky. Kentucky, which has 120 counties, had a voter turnout of about 31 percent.
Conway won in Rowan County—where county clerk Kim Davis waged her war on same-sage marriage—by a count of 49.7 percent to 46.7 percent. But President Obama carried that county, and in heavily Republican Casey County, where the county clerk has also refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, Bevin scored 79.3 percent of the vote to 18.1 percent for Conway. Bevin had called for current Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, "to issue an executive order freeing Davis of the responsibility of issuing the licenses and even had his photo taken with Davis," Joseph Gerth reports for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Bevin's hometown.

Bevin at first said he would abolish Medicaid expansion "but for the last three months has said he would seek a federal waiver to revise it," reports Kentucky Health News, published by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which also publishes The Rural Blog. In Kentucky the uninsured rate dropped from 20.8 percent in 2013 to 9.8 percent in 2014, reports Kentucky Health News. The state had the nation's largest decrease of number of uninsured residents from 2013 to 2014, KHN reports.

"As governor, Bevin has called for an austere budget to pay down Kentucky’s state worker pension program’s unfunded liability, and he has promised to move new teachers over to a 401k type program rather than a traditional pension," Gerth writes.

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