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.
On some issues, Mr. Beshear turned national issues to his advantage, repeatedly hitting Mr. Cameron for his initial support of an abortion ban passed by the legislature that contains no exceptions for rape or incest. But for the most part, Mr. Beshear continued to downplay partisanship with an appeal to a “common good” that appeared to resonate with voters. He ended up winning by a margin larger than in 2019, notching victories in urban and rural counties alike.
“Tonight, Kentucky made a choice, a choice not to move to the right or to the left, but to move forward,” Mr. Beshear said in a victory speech braided with references to Scripture and lists of infrastructure projects that had begun on his watch. “Our neighbors aren’t just Democrats. They’re not just Republicans. They’re not just independents. Every single person is a child of God and they are all our neighbors.”
In his brief concession speech, Mr. Cameron echoed some of these sentiments, asking his supporters to pray for Mr. Beshear. “I know from his perspective and all of our perspectives, that we all want the same thing for our future generations,” Mr. Cameron said. “We want a better commonwealth.”
The expensive and at times bitterly contested campaign 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 was limited in his policy ambitions by a Republican-dominated legislature, though he pursued executive orders where possible. But a year into his term, the state was battered by one disaster after another: first the Covid-19 pandemic; then, in 2021, a tornado outbreak in western Kentucky that killed 80 people; and, seven months later, catastrophic flooding in the mountains of eastern Kentucky that killed 45.
Mr. Beshear’s 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 many Republicans.
“I think he’s done a good job,” said Kim Raymer, 63, of Elizabethtown, Ky., who voted for Mr. Cameron but added that she would not be upset about a second Beshear term.
“He’s not like some of the crazy, radical people,” Ms. Raymer said. “He’s a nice guy,”