FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Matt Bevin held on to his 83-vote lead after a state review of vote totals Thursday in Kentucky's Republican primary for governor, but his rival did not concede and suggested he was not done contesting the result.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced shortly before 3 p.m. that vote totals for Bevin and Comer did not change following the review of electronic voting machines and absentee ballots in all 120 counties, known as a recanvass. But she did not declare Bevin the winner, and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said through a spokesman that he would interrupt his Florida vacation Friday to announce "the next steps he will take in this race."
The election results won't be certified until June 8.
Comer has some options until then. He can ask a judge to order a recount, which is different from a recanvass in that it examines each individual ballot instead of just the vote totals from voting machines. But a recount is expensive, and Comer would have to pay for it himself. The deadline to file the lawsuit is Friday.
The likelihood a recount would change the outcome appeared slim.
"There have been no substantial changes after a review of the totals on the machines that would indicate a manual recount could possibly change the vote totals," Grimes said.
Bevin declined to speak to reporters at his campaign headquarters in Middletown. But in a news release, he declared victory, saying "it is an honor to be the Republican nominee."
"I have tremendous respect for Commissioner Comer and am glad that we went through the recanvass process so that the integrity of our election was validated," Bevin said.
If the results hold, it would resurrect Bevin's political career, which once appeared doomed after losing to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in last year's primary. While James Comer and Hal Heiner scooped up endorsements and TV time, Bevin waited until the last day to file for the race and start another campaign that seemed destined to become another footnote in the state's Republican politics.
But with few endorsements, more than $1 million of his own money and a mostly volunteer staff, Bevin attacked the county Lincoln Day dinner circuit that mostly shunned him last year and found a niche for himself as an alternative to the mudslinging that enveloped the candidacies of Comer and Heiner in the campaign's final days. His message was summed up by a TV ad in the final week where actors portraying Comer and Heiner sat at a children's table and threw food at each other while Bevin smiled and a narrator said, "Kentucky can do much better."
Bevin will now set his sights on Democratic nominee Jack Conway, a two-time statewide election winner as Kentucky's attorney general who stockpiled more than $1 million in campaign donations during a primary of minimal opposition. Bevin, meanwhile, mostly self-financed his race with money earned from his career as an investment banker.
Now Bevin will have to rally the Republican Party following a divisive primary. The state's leading elected officials have embraced him, and McConnell has vowed to endorse him. But Bevin still has to prove he can win over Republican donors that have mostly avoided him.
"If I were Matt Bevin and his campaign, I'd be calling as many of those (donors) as I can right now," veteran Republican strategist Scott Jennings said. "He's run two elections in Kentucky and in neither case did he have much success raising money from donors in the state."
Associated Press reporter Claire Galofaro contributed to this report from Middletown, Kentucky.