When Rowan County clerk Kim Davis was jailed for her refusal to issue marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, national Democrats derided her. However, in Kentucky, Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin made a strong stand in defending Ms. Davis’s religious liberty. In a statement, he said:
It is utterly unnecessary that Rowan County clerk, Kim Davis, is sitting in a jail cell, when there is a simple solution that would respect the rights of every Kentuckian. I first put this solution forward many weeks ago. Why the cowardly silence from our Attorney General, Jack Conway? Jack Conway violated his oath of office as Attorney General when he refused to defend our state in court. Where was our Governor then demanding his resignation? The double standard applied in this case is reprehensible. Jack Conway refused to defend our state constitution and now he is refusing to stand up for the religious liberties of our county clerks. This is unconscionable and, as Governor, I will stand up for all Kentuckians, not just the ones who agree with me.
Bevin’s strong stand in defense of Kim Davis and religious liberty has paid off. He is now Governor-elect Matt Bevin, having defeated Kentucky attorney general Jack Conway 52.5 percent to 43.8 percent. Most major polls of the race had Bevin either in a statistical tie with Conway or losing to the sitting attorney general.
Perhaps most interesting are the results in Kim Davis’s home county of Rowan. There, Conway narrowly defeated Bevin (Conway garnered 2,321 votes to Bevin’s 2,179 — a narrow 142 vote margin). Comparing those totals to the 2011 gubernatorial race, where the Republican candidate lost Rowan County by 1,280 votes, it can credibly be concluded that Bevin’s support of Kim Davis galvanized voters to switch parties in what is typically considered a safe Democrat county.
William J. Upton is the Executive Director of the Campaign for American Principles.