Jenean Hampton last night became the first African-American political candidate to be elected in a statewide election in Kentucky.
Tea Party favorite Hampton, a retired U.S. Air Force captain and businesswoman, is/was the running mate of now Governor-elect Matt Bevin on the victorious Republican ticket after all the votes were counted on Election Day 2015. Neither have ever held public office before.
Controversial GOP standard-bearer Bevin was the upset winner over Democrat Jack Conway. Polling (and your mileage may vary when it comes to polls, as recent elections have established) consistently suggested that Conway was a sure winner. Bevin, however, won by a margin of 53 percent to 44 percent.
“The victory was near complete with Bevin winning all but 14 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, including stalwart Democratic counties like Pike and Woodford,” the Courier-Journal reported.
Conway also lost to libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul in 2010 in the election for U.S. Senate. Paul is running simultaneously for president and for reelection to the U.S. Senate.
The Bevin/Hampton victory is notable in that Democrats have occupied the governor’s mansion in Kentucky for most of the past four decades.
According to the Democratic Governors Association, Bevin’s surprise victory was the result of “Trump-mania…in the Year of the Outsider.”
After last night’s vote count, Republicans now control four of the six state constitutional offices in Kentucky.
Both Bevin and Hampton are newcomers to politics. A former U.S. Army officer, Bevin is a successful businessman and also a Tea Party activist. He also emerged as a strong supporter of controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“[Hampton] initially believed Republicans were ‘horrible people’ during the Nixon years, but that changed when President Ronald Reagan’s idealism reflected her own optimism about the American Dream,” the Courier Journal noted.
Originally from inner-city Detroit and raised by a single mom, Hampton earned a bachelors degree in industrial engineering and later an MBA.
“After finishing college, she joined the Air Force as a computer systems officer writing computer code. She served for seven years and was deployed to Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia, where she wrote radar software used for search and rescues missions and for tracking Iraqi planes,” TheBlaze reported. Her husband is also a retired Air Force officer.
Upon being selected as Bevin’s running mate, Hampton remarked that “I’m aware of the historical significance. People point it out…Really, I just never think about it. We’re different races, different sexes, he grew up in the country, I grew up in the city. We represent a broad range of the Kentucky demographic.”
As lieutenant governor, Hampton said that she plans on focusing on efforts to improve education and boost free-market entrepreneurship.
The Bevin-Hampton outsider ticket was able to prevail despite the bad blood between Bevin and the GOP establishment, including power-broker Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate majority leader, against whom Bevin waged a bitter and losing primary for the Senate seat last year, as well as a huge amount of negative ads aired by his opponent, which Bevin alluded to in his acceptance speech (see clip below).
“Bevin was able to defy pundits, political insiders and polling — including one released by his own campaign in October that showed him losing — and emerge a winner Tuesday night,” Kentucky.com explained.
Matt Bevin and his wife have nine children, four of whom are adopted from Ethiopia.
“Bevin, boosted by a massive investment from national Republicans and help from his former nemesis Mitch McConnell, nationalized the race, tying Conway to President Obama at every opportunity — on coal, on school choice, on social issues, and especially on Obamacare,” Townhall observed.
During the Obama administration, the Democrats have lost 12 governorships and 14 U.S. Senate seats.
Running counter to what the experts insisted was the situation on the ground, the surprise victory by Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton as governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, in the Kentucky election “is just the latest example of how conventional wisdom, centered around failed poll predictions, is wrong. And it’s a big deal that it’s wrong, because so much of our political journalism follows the lead of polling… What very few pollsters figured out in this election was how deeply unpopular President Obama is in Kentucky and how that affected voters’ willingness to support his party, by voting for a Democrat or even by showing up to vote,” the Federalist claimed.
Under Kentucky law, Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton take office on December 8 rather than in January as in most other jurisdictions.
[Image via YouTube]