The Democratic Party has prospered for decades by promising voters entitlements in return for Election Day loyalty. It worked with Social Security and Medicare, and so it was supposed to work for ObamaCare: Pass it and they will come. Instead the Affordable Care Act has become a recurring political catastrophe for Democrats, most recently on Tuesday in Kentucky.
The GOP picked up the Kentucky governorship for only the second time in 44 years as businessman Matt Bevin hung President Obama’s signature domestic achievement around Bluegrass State Democrats. Mr. Bevin trailed Attorney General Jack Conway in the polls for most of the campaign, but a late surge produced a GOP rout.
Mr. Bevin won 53%-44% and swept 107 of Kentucky’s 120 counties—including a few liberal strongholds. Republicans had held one statewide office; after the election they’ll hold four of six. Mr. Bevin’s running mate, business executive and Air Force vet Jenean Hampton, became the first African-American to win a statewide race.
Democrats blamed the drubbing on low turnout and “Trump-mania”—a swipe at Mr. Bevin’s Tea Party roots. But before the election they were saying that Mr. Bevin, who tends to shoot from the lip, was unelectable. He might have been—if not for ObamaCare.
The national press had made Kentucky a showcase of the Affordable Care Act, touting Democratic Governor Steve Beshear’s state-run exchange, KYnect, and his Medicaid expansion. The local results weren’t so cheery. Two-fifths of Kentucky hospitals have had to cut services due to soaring Medicaid costs.
Thousands of residents lost the health-care plans they liked, and most insurers on Kynect are increasing premiums by double-digits. In terrible timing for Mr. Conway, the Kentucky Health Cooperative, the largest insurer on the ObamaCare exchange, imploded in October, leaving 51,000 residents without coverage.
Mr. Bevin hammered away at all this, promising to shutter Kynect, hand the mess back to a federal exchange, and limit the Medicaid expansion. The Republican Governors Association dropped a late $2.5 million ad blitz on ObamaCare, quoting Mr. Conway as saying he “would have been proud to vote for” the bill had he been in Washington. Other ads tagged Mr. Conway for continuing to support a law that is “hurting Kentucky families” and for failing as Attorney General to join the national lawsuit against ObamaCare.
And after years of slandering the Tea Party as racist, lo and behold:
Bevin’s lieutenant governor running-mate, Jenean Hampton, is now the first African American elected to statewide office ever in the state’s history.
Both Bevin and Hampton are Tea Party activists who have never held elective office. Hampton’s path certainly represents triumph over adversity. Born in Detroit, the 57-year-old Hampton and her three sisters were raised by a single mom who lacked a high school education and couldn’t afford a television or a car.
But Hampton was determined to better herself. She graduated with a degree in industrial engineering and worked for five years in the automobile industry to pay off her college loans. She then joined the Air Force, retiring as a Captain. She earned an MBA from the University of Rochester, moved to Kentucky and became a plant manager in a corrugated packaging plant. Then she lost her job in 2012.