Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky won a second term on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, earning a noteworthy victory for a Democrat in a deeply conservative state and one that validated his pragmatic approach over a first term buffeted by a series of natural disasters.
Mr. Beshear defeated Daniel Cameron, the state’s attorney general, who is a protégé of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and who has been considered a rising star in Republican politics. During the campaign, Mr. Cameron had tried to nationalize the race as much as possible, attacking Mr. Beshear for his veto of a bill placing restrictions on transgender youth and tying him to President Biden, who is deeply unpopular in the state.
But Mr. Beshear, 45, one of the most popular governors in the country, led in polls throughout the race and raised much more money than Mr. Cameron. Outside groups tried to counter that advantage with ads on Mr. Cameron’s behalf, but Mr. Beshear had his own well-funded backers. And in some cases, Mr. Beshear turned national issues to his advantage, repeatedly hitting Mr. Cameron for his initial support of an abortion ban passed by the General Assembly that contains no exceptions for rape or incest.
The expensive and at times bitterly contested race was one of just three races for governor in the country this year, all in traditionally strong Republican states. That Mr. Beshear, the son of a former Democratic governor of Kentucky, was in office in the first place was largely a consequence of the particularly divisive style of Matt Bevin, the Republican incumbent he beat in 2019. Mr. Bevin’s open hostility toward teachers who went on strike for pay raises galvanized Kentucky educators, who were crucial in delivering Mr. Beshear’s narrow upset win.
Once in office, Mr. Beshear had to face one disaster after another: first the Covid pandemic and then, in 2021, a tornado outbreak in western Kentucky that killed 57 people, and, seven months later, catastrophic flooding in the mountains of eastern Kentucky that killed 45.
His focus on recovery efforts, combined with frequent references to his religious faith and a careful avoidance of national political issues, kept his approval ratings high, even, apparently, among Kentuckians who had voted for former President Donald J. Trump.
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