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story.lead_photo.caption Vice President Mike Pence (left) and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tate Reeves acknowledge the crowd Monday at a rally in Biloxi, Miss.

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Republican Gov. Matt Bevin received a ringing endorsement from President Donald Trump on Monday, hours before voters settle Kentucky's closely watched governor's race between Bevin and Democrat Andy Beshear.

The rally at Rupp Arena reinforced one of Bevin's main campaign themes -- his alliance with Trump, whose popularity surpasses the governor's in the bluegrass state.

Trump, who easily carried Kentucky in winning the presidency in 2016, declared that Bevin's reelection today would send a signal to the country and his political adversaries.

"Tomorrow, Kentucky has a chance to send the radical Democrats a message: You will vote to reject the Democrats' extremism, socialism and corruption and you will vote to reelect Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin," the president said.

Beshear, the state's attorney general, spent the day campaigning in western Kentucky. The challenger stuck to his themes of improving public schools, creating better-paying jobs and protecting health care and public pensions.

"People try to distract us with national issues and get us thinking about things other than our well-being," Beshear said in a Monday radio interview on WKDZ. "Our families should be doing so much better. And I'm going to make sure they do."

The Kentucky contest is being watched for early signs of how the impeachment inquiry might affect Trump and other Republican incumbents in 2020. Among those with an especially keen interest: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's on the ballot himself next year in Kentucky.

McConnell took the stage Monday night in his home state to praise Trump's efforts to reshape the federal courts by appointing conservatives to the bench.

Bevin sounded confident about his prospects for a second term and said the president's eleventh-hour appearance would give him a boost.

"I think we're going to win, regardless," the governor told reporters. "I think we'll win even more, with this kind of wind in our sails."

Pointing to Bevin's conservative credentials, Trump praised the governor's opposition to abortion, his support for gun rights and his tough stance against illegal immigration.

Beshear accused Bevin of dividing people, and promised to be a governor who "listens more than he talks, who solves more problems than he creates and would never engage in the type of bullying and name calling we've seen."

Earlier Monday, Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Mississippi for the Republican nominee for governor, who's in a tight race with the state's best-funded Democratic nominee in nearly a generation.

"Mississippi and America need Tate Reeves to be the next governor of the great state of Mississippi," Pence told hundreds of people at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi. "Tate Reeves is Mississippi. He's a strong conservative."

Reeves is in his second term as lieutenant governor. The Democratic nominee for governor, Jim Hood, is in his fourth as attorney general. They are on the ballot today along with two lesser-known candidates. The winner will succeed Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who is limited by state law to two terms.

Mississippi is conducting its most competitive governor's race since 2003, when the state's last Democratic governor was unseated by a Republican.

Republicans have held the governorship in Mississippi for 24 of the past 28 years.

Hood campaigned Monday in the Mississippi Delta, a traditional Democratic stronghold.

"People want to see our roads fixed, and people want to see our rural hospitals open in areas like this where the hospital is really struggling," Hood told reporters in Greenwood. "And people want to see us do more in education."

In a speech running about 30 minutes, Pence cast Hood as a liberal who is out of touch with Mississippians. He said Hood supported Hillary Clinton for president, was soft on Second Amendment protections and once denounced the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Pence, Bryant and Reeves said support for Reeves is a show of support for Trump.

Pence made one brief allusion to congressional Democrats' impeachment inquiry, saying a vote for Reeves would "send a message to Washington, D.C., that enough is enough, and that Mississippi is tired of the endless investigations and partisan impeachment."

Information for this article was contributed by Emily Wagster Pettus and Kevin McGill of The Associated Press.

A Section on 11/05/2019

Print Headline: Kentucky, Mississippi to elect governors

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