History wasn’t made, but Election Day still seemed somewhat historical.
U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher defeated state Attorney General Ben Chandler on Tuesday to become Kentucky’s first Republican governor since 1967.
Fletcher received 55 percent of the votes to Chandler’s 45, with more than 1 million ballots cast.
“This really is a historical moment in this state,” Fletcher said during a televised acceptance speech.
Chandler made reference to what was at times a rough campaign during his concession speech.
“We took on a withering assault,” Chandler said. “We fought this fight for the values we hold dear and to build a strong, prosperous government to pass on to our children and grandchildren.”
Fletcher’s running mate, Stephen Pence, will become the first Republican lieutenant governor in more than 50 years. Republicans also took several other key state positions, including secretary of state and agriculture commissioner.
Political science professor John Parker said Fletcher was able to spend as much money needed to win the election because there are currently no campaign finance restrictions. Republicans last year fought such restrictions during the past two legislative sessions.
“Republicans for many years did not run a good candidate,” Parker said. “Leading Republican figures did not think they could win statewide.”
No matter which candidate won the election, Parker and Robbin Taylor, director of governmental relations, agree that the future of higher education is unclear.
“There’s been a lot said about education, but not a lot said specifically about higher education,” Taylor said.
Taylor said Fletcher has visited Western and met with President Gary Ransdell and has recognized Western’s performance in recent years.
Parker said Fletcher will have to submit a budget in January.
“We are going to work with Republicans and Democrats to reach out and move this state forward,” Fletcher said during his speech. “Move this state forward in the direction that I think many folks and I know we’ve been longing for for a number of years.”
Reach Shawntaye Hopkins [email protected]