Kentucky governor's race now 'leans Republican,' group says

Published: Jul. 16, 2015 at 4:15 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2015 at 4:15 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Republican Matt Bevin is a slight favorite to win Kentucky's race for governor this year, according to a group that analyzes political races.

The Center for Politics, led by prominent political scientist Larry Sabato, on Thursday moved the race from "toss-up" to "leans Republican." Bevin, a Louisville businessman, faces Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway.

"The national Democratic brand is toxic in Kentucky," analysts from Sabato's Crystal Ball said. "Bluegrass Democrats will want to keep the race local, but the U.S. Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling created an opening for Bevin to connect Conway to national politics."

The lone poll in the race, conducted by Public Policy Polling in late June, showed Bevin holding a 40-38 lead -- a virtual tie. Democrats quickly attacked the poll's credibility.

Despite the change, the Center for Politics cautions that there's no clear favorite to replace the term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear.

"Bevin is far from a sure thing," analysts said, citing a track record of mistakes, such as attending a cockfighting rally and refusing to endorse Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. "If this weren't the Obama era, we would be inclined to leave the race as a toss-up; at this point, we're certainly not willing to go beyond a "leans" designation."

The candidates are scheduled to make their next joint appearance July 23 at the Kentucky Farm Bureau forum.

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