Kim Davis, clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses for gay couples, loses to Democrat

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk made famous by her refusal to sign marriage licenses for gay couples, lost Tuesday in her reelection bid for the Rowan County clerkship.

Davis, a Republican, lost to Democratic challenger Elwood Caudill Jr. by about 700 votes.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis with her son Nathan, a deputy clerk, in 2015 outside the Rowan County Courthouse. Pablo Alcala

Her loss marks at least a temporary end to the saga that has surrounded the clerk’s office since 2015, when Davis was jailed for five days after refusing to sign marriage licenses for gay couples.

“I believe that as a community we must continue to work together toward a more prosperous and cohesive Rowan County,” Caudill said after his win. “Tonight was awesome.”

The controversy launched this mostly-rural Kentucky county into the national spotlight. It gave Davis a hero’s reputation to some on the right, including Gov. Matt Bevin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who lauded her decision as a self-sacrificing expression of religious liberty.

For many on the left, though, Davis was condemned. Critics called her refusal to sign marriage licenses a bigoted neglect of her official duties.

Since her incarceration and subsequent rise to fame, Davis continued to work as clerk and published a book about her experience, “Under God’s Authority: The Kim Davis Story.” A description of her book reads: “Kim chronicles her dramatic encounters with furious, fist-pounding homosexual men and the hate mail that flooded her office.”

But despite Davis’ fame, Caudill, the chief deputy property valuation administrator for Rowan County, took the election.

This was Caudill’s second time running for the office. In 2014, he lost to Davis by just 23 votes in the primary — Davis changed parties in 2015.

Much of the attention to Caudill’s campaign focused around his primary opponent David Ermold, a gay man who was denied a marriage license by Kim Davis in 2015.

Ermold’s bid for county clerk gained national attention and landed him more than $200,000 in campaign donations from supporters across the country.

Despite the financial advantage — Caudill raised shy of $6,000 for his primary bid — Ermold lost the primary by more than 1,000 votes.

After his loss, Ermold declined to throw his support behind Caudill. Instead, he has called Caudill a homophobe and said the Kentucky Fairness Campaign’s endorsement of Caudill was “personally offensive.”

Caudill repeatedly denied Ermold’s accusations of bigotry. He said, when it came to marriage licenses, he plans to treat everybody equally.

Rowan County Clerk

  • Elwood Caudill Jr. 4,210

  • Kim Davis 3,566