With one day left before Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Kentucky, Republican Matt Bevin is emphasizing social issues, even invoking the name of a certain county clerk to help drive up turnout among conservatives.
As reported by The Washington Post, Bevin had initially planned to stress economic issues in his campaign, but says he discovered that voters preferred to talk about social issues, such as 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,” Bevin told the Post. “This is what moves people.”
Specifically, Bevin and his Republican allies are invoking the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who has milked her 15 minutes in the spotlight to become a mini-celebrity among politically conservative circles. While in jail, she was visited not only by Bevin, but by Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. The Post reports that her husband, Joe Davis, is considering running for the state legislature next year.
As he travels around the state, Bevin’s body man hands out postcards describing Bevin as “the only candidate for governor that has stood up for traditional marriage and religious liberty.” Bevin has also made appeals to born-again Christians, urging them to vote to counteract the political activism of “agnostics and atheists” and telling them to “stand firm” for their beliefs.
Kentucky State Sen. Jared Carpenter (R-Richmond), a Bevin backer, blamed gay couples who pushed to receive marriage licenses in Rowan County for turning Davis into a “martyr.”
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate and current Attorney General Jack Conway, who famously decided not to pursue an appeal after a federal judge declared Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, acknowledges that some people are very passionate about the Davis controversy, but feels that inclusivity will be better in attracting more companies with good-paying jobs (many of whom are pro-LGBT) and talented entrepreneurs to the Bluegrass State.
“Look, Kim Davis went to jail not because of her religious beliefs,” Conway told the Post. “She went to jail because she defied a federal court order. We’re a nation of laws, and you have to follow the law.”
That said, Conway is hedging his bets in the conservative state, promising to sign a “narrowly tailored” law that would grant county clerks, like Davis, some flexibility for moral objections to same-sex marriage. Leadership in both the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has indicated they favor such legislation. Outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D) was attacked soon after Davis was jailed for refusing to call a special session of the legislature to provide such exemptions.
Keeping in mind that turnout in Tuesday’s election is expected to be very low, with fewer than 1 in 3 voters casting ballots, Bevin is hoping to rile up social conservatives and members of the Republican base to head to the polls on his behalf. Bevin, believing gay marriage and other social issues to be the linchpin to his victory, has accused local Kentucky media of bias, alleging that they are trying to suppress coverage of social issues in the gubernatorial campaign.
“I don’t know if we’re part of the Bible Belt or not, but this is an important part of how people think,” Bevin told the Post. “It’s not dormant. it’s latent. It’s right there below the surface. The media wanted it gone fast because it gets people fired up. They try not to talk about it, unless I bring it up. … They have a different world view.”
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