Bevin rejected calls to concede to Democratic challenger Andy Beshear, who has declared victory.
“Would it be a Bevin race if it wasn’t a squeaker?” Bevin, who barely won the 2015 Republican primary, told a crowd late Tuesday. “This is a close, close race. We are not conceding this race by any stretch.”
Bevin said there were some irregularities in the election and said the law dictates a specific process in close races.
Beshear, son of former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, told reporters early Wednesday: “We’re confident in the outcome of the election. Today is about moving forward. The election is over.”
Bevin on Wednesday called for a recanvass, or county clerks checking to make sure the vote totals match up.
“The people of Kentucky deserve a fair and honest election. With reports of irregularities, we are exercising the right to ensure that every lawful vote was counted,” Davis Paine, Bevin’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
The fact that the election came in so close makes the refusal to concede unsurprisingly, Josh Douglas, an elections law professor at the University of Kentucky, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“I think the count is close enough that his team is going to look into if there’s anything they can use to contest the election,” Douglas said. “The fact that he refused to concede tonight wasn’t surprising given the small lead Beshear had.”
Recanvasses often shift very few votes, Douglas said.
The State Board of Elections has until Nov. 25 to certify the election results. State law allows Bevin to file an election contest with the Kentucky General Assembly. If he contests the election, lawmakers would form a committee to take depositions and order a recount, ultimately making a recommendation to the legislature, which would decide the outcome, according to the paper.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers also said shortly after Bevin’s speech that the legislature could end up deciding the race.
“There’s less than one-half of 1 percent, as I understand, separating the governor and the attorney general,” Stivers told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We will follow the letter of the law and what various processes determine.”
Based on his staff’s research into state law, Stivers said, the decision could end up being made by the legislature, which is controlled by the GOP.
The last governor’s race that was contested in the state took place in 1899.
Section 90 of Kentucky’s Constitution states, “Contested elections for Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be determined by both Houses of the General Assembly, according to such regulations as may be established by law.”
Sam Marcosson, a constitutional law professor at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, told the paper that the language means lawmakers have to establish a procedure to review a contested election, and said lawmakers would need a clear reason for an election to be contested.
“If the House and Senate were just to proceed on vague allegations without proof, that raises serious questions about disenfranchisement of the voters who voted for Attorney General Beshear,” Marcosson said. “It’s an extraordinary proposition to suggest that the General Assembly would take vague allegations of unspecified irregularities and call into question a gubernatorial election.”