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Bevin leads by 83 votes, Comer to ask for recanvass

Published: May. 20, 2015 at 1:22 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2015 at 2:39 AM EDT
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James Comer addresses his supporters on primary election night. (Source: Miles Jackson, WAVE 3...
James Comer addresses his supporters on primary election night. (Source: Miles Jackson, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Matt Bevin leads the too-close-to-call Republican primary for Kentucky governor by 83 votes over James Comer, who vowed Tuesday night to ask for a recanvass.

The Associated Press said it would not declare a winner Tuesday. Bevin's lead is four-hundredths of a percentage point, 32.91 percent to 32.87 percent.

The two candidates made vastly different speeches within minutes of one another. Bevin took the stage in downtown Louisville around 10:15 p.m. to declare victory, asking people to "come on board" his general election campaign.

Minutes earlier, Comer told his supporters he owed it to them to ask for a recanvass. The state's agriculture commissioner said if the recanvass showed Bevin in the lead, he would throw his support behind Bevin.

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A recanvass allows county clerks to check official results against the vote tallies that came out of each precinct. Kentucky law provides for a recanvass at no cost to the candidate who asks for one, and the process is relatively clean.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said late Tuesday that Comer has until May 26 to request a recanvass. If he does, the process would take place on May 28.

A recount forces county clerks to check every vote, and state law requires the requesting candidate to pay for the process. A recount would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it was unclear whether Comer would request one in the future.

Ten touch screens used by impaired voters in Jefferson County remain at polling places and haven't been counted. The machines are lightly used and may contain no votes or perhaps a few votes apiece, said Nore Ghibaudy, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Clerk's office.

Ghibaudy said the touch screens will likely be retrieved on Wednesday and counted before the county Board of Elections certifies the official results.

The 83-vote margin equates to 0.02 vote in each of Kentucky's 3,734 precincts, an incredibly close race.

Earlier Tuesday night, when Bevin was leading by several thousand votes, many Republican observers thought the election was over. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul even tweeted his congratulations to Bevin.

Yet Comer staged a furious comeback in his stronghold of western Kentucky, briefly taking a 30-vote lead as county after county broke in his favor.

The two other candidates in the race, Hal Heiner and Will T. Scott, conceded earlier in the night. Heiner garnered 27.1 percent of the vote, winning Jefferson County yet failing to gain any traction in western Kentucky. Scott received 7.2 percent of the vote and won just two counties.

Democrats, who easily nominated Attorney General Jack Conway for governor earlier in the night, blasted the GOP as a "deeply divided Republican party."

"While we await the final results, one thing is clear: Jack Conway is the only candidate in this race who will put Kentucky families first," according to a statement from the Democratic Governor's Association.

At least 214,187 people cast votes in the Republican primary. Republican turnout was about 17 percent, and overall turnout was about 12.6 percent, according to the state Board of Elections.

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