A crowded field for Kentucky governor

Voters in Kentucky will elect a governor this fall—but exactly who ends up on the November ballot will depend on the results of the state’s May 16 primaries.

Three candidates are running in the Democratic primary: Incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear, Peppy Martin, and Geoff Young. Beshear was first elected in 2019, receiving 49.2% of the vote to then-Gov. Matt Bevin’s (R) 48.8%. Beshear previously served one term as attorney general from 2015 to 2019.

There are 12 candidates running in the Republican primary, including Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Auditor Mike Harmon, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft.

Along with Kansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina, Kentucky is one of four states with a Democratic governor that President Donald Trump (R) won in 2020. Trump defeated Joe Biden (D) 62% to 36%.

Despite its Republican streak in presidential elections, Democratic governors have led Kentucky for 64 of the past 76 years. The state has elected three Republican governors since World War II, each serving single terms from 1967 to 1971, 2003 to 2007, and 2015 to 2019.

The outcome of this election will determine the state’s trifecta status for at least the next year (with legislative elections scheduled for 2024). The state currently has a divided government: Democrats control the governorship, and Republicans control both legislative chambers.

If Democrats retain the governorship, Kentucky will remain a divided government. If Republicans win control, the state will become a Republican trifecta.

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