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Obamacare Foe Matt Bevin Wins Governor's Race In Kentucky

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Republicans had a big night in Kentucky. They won many victories in state elections, and that includes the governor's race, which Republicans won for only the second time in four decades.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This means a Democrat who embraced Obamacare will be replaced by a Republican governor eager to reverse that. Here's Ashley Lopez of member station WFPL.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Led by businessman Matt Bevin, Republicans won 3 out of 5 statewide offices in Kentucky. Bevin says the tide is turning in Kentucky, where voters have traditionally sent Democrats to the governor's mansion.

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MATT BEVIN: I'm a Republican, and I've always been a Republican. And I'm proud for the fact that this is a great night for the Republican Party in the state of Kentucky.

LOPEZ: The outcome came as a surprise to many. Polls showed the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Jack Conway, with a slight edge throughout the entire campaign. But turnout on election day was low. Just 30 percent of registered voters showed up at the polls. Bevin's victory is a sign that the state's conservative rural voters are finally leaving the Democratic Party, says Kentucky Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson.

STEVE ROBERTSON: Kentucky always takes its time with a lot of things. And, you know, but I think Kentucky is now moving into that red column. We're joining our neighbors in the South.

LOPEZ: People stayed home, even though the stakes were high. The outgoing governor, Democrat Steve Bashir, embraced the Affordable Care Act. As a result, half-a-million Kentuckians gained health insurance, many for the first time. During the campaign, Bevin said he plans to dismantle the state's health insurance exchange and reverse an executive order expanding Medicaid.

BEVIN: Of necessity, it will have to happen because there literally is no ability for us, from a budgetary standpoint, to afford 25 to 30 percent of Kentuckians on Medicaid.

LOPEZ: The only obstacle Bevin faces is a Statehouse controlled by Democrats. But Republicans think they have a good chance of changing that next year. For NPR News, I'm Ashley Lopez in Louisville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.