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Hostility Against Obama's Politics Reflected In Kentucky Election Results

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And let's hear more about a political shock in Kentucky. For only the second time in more than 40 years, voters this week chose a Republican as governor, businessman and Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin. He replaces retiring Democratic Governor Steve Beshear. Earlier this morning, we reached Dan Mosley. He's the judge executive - that's the top administrator - of Harlan County, Ky., and a Democrat. Good morning.

DAN MOSLEY: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: There's been a lot of hostility towards the Obama White House and sort of a move away from voting Democratic. Paint us a picture of Harlan County.

MOSLEY: Well, Harlan County, of course, is a southeastern Kentucky County. It's a county that has had a rich history of coal mining. And under this administration, the EPA regulations have really put a major burden on the coal industry. And we've seen layoffs in the last five years like we've never seen in the last 50 years as a result of this. I mean, at one point, we had 50 mines or more working in Harlan County, and today we have five. And people feel like this Democrat president has said he's going to shut down any type of coal-fired plants. And what's happening is they're taking it out on other Democrat candidates. And the Republicans have done a brilliant job in connecting Democrat candidates to the president, even though some of the state-wide candidates here in Kentucky had no connection to the president. But because they were a Democrat, they got connected.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me say that, that said - that sense of disliking President Obama and his politics - Kentucky is one of the states that has benefited the most from his signature Obamacare. And since 2013, it has seen the largest drop in the number of uninsured of any state. So how do they square that with this desire to get rid of something that they benefited from and I gather embrace?

MOSLEY: Well, and the program here he has been an outstanding program. You know, unfortunately, I don't know how many of those people actually voted in this election.

MONTAGNE: What does this mean for the future of the Democratic Party in the state?

MOSLEY: Well, I mean, politics has ebbs and flows. But Bevin had a base, and then that base was ignited by the anti-Obama policies. The other thing that they tapped into here is people's religious believes. I mean, Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who gained a lot of national attention for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses - a lot of people in my neck of the woods felt that she was done wrong. And that ignited more people to go out and vote than i thought. What I thought would - here in Harlan County, I thought we would put about 4,000 people. We voted 5,300. So Mr. Bevin got about 1,500 more votes than I thought that he was going to get. And you multiply that by, you know, 50 counties in the east, that's the difference in the election.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for talking with us.

MOSLEY: You're very welcome. Thanks for having me on.

MONTAGNE: Dan Mosley is the judge executive. That is the administrator of Harlan County, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.