Kentucky GOP Turns to Kim Davis, Planned Parenthood in Governor’s Race

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Tuesday marks Kentucky’s gubernatorial election day, and the contest is coming down to the wire. Republican candidate Matt Bevin is surprised that it isn’t economic issues he’s hearing most about on the campaign trail, but social ones:

Republican Matt Bevin planned to emphasize economic issues in his campaign, but he discovered that voters preferred to talk about social issues, including gay marriage and defunding Planned Parenthood. ‘I hear more about those now as I’m out on the campaign trail than I do about anything else,’ he said. ‘This is what moves people.’

The electorate’s keen interest in these issues has prompted a response from Bevin, who is banking on Evangelical voters to push him over the top.  Bevin endorsed embattled Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in September, and is making religious liberty a major theme in the closing days of his campaign:

As Bevin traversed the Bluegrass State the past few days, his body man handed out postcards that described him as ‘the only candidate for governor that has stood up for traditional marriage and religious liberty.’ In his stump speech, Bevin asserts that only 25 percent of born-again Christians vote compared to 75 percent of ‘agnostics and atheists.’

‘This is why the tail seems to keep wagging the dog,’ he says. ‘We need to stop being so sheep-like, so silent and being led around. We’ve got to stand firm.’

So how likely is Bevin’s strategy to work?  Well, the outgoing Governor Steve Beshear asserts that ‘it’s still maybe a 60/40 split against gay marriage’ and even Democratic nominee Jack Conway has felt heat from the Kim Davis jailing, saying recently he’ll sign a ‘narrowly tailored’ religious objection law.  If Bevin comes out victorious tonight, it will be largely because of Evangelicals and religious liberty voters.

Nick Arnold is a researcher for the American Principles Project.