Republican primary voters in Kentucky must decide Tuesday whether to turn against Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear, one of the nation’s most popular governors, despite GOP star Daniel Cameron leading the state. Trump won in 2020 by about 26 points. He’s running in a crowded field, but he’s the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
Cameron is Kentucky’s first black attorney general and the first Republican to hold the office in 70 years. He enjoys name IDs that are statewide and nationally wide. A former defensive back on the University of Louisville football team, he was coached by Florida’s Byron Donalds, Michigan’s John James and L.E. Governor Mark Robinson is seeking the Republican nomination for governor of North Carolina next year.
Cameron has rarely leaned into the historic nature of his run for governor, but his run for the state’s top office is an early sign of how well black Republicans can do with majority white primary voters, who are the GOP’s Let’s make the base.
Kentucky, along with Louisiana, represents one of the GOP’s two best chances to overturn the governor this nondelayed election cycle. If successful, it would provide a blueprint for other conservative candidates running in deep red states where Democratic incumbents are up for re-election. It will also test whether former President Donald Trump has regained his grip as kingmaker after multiple runoffs in last year’s midterm elections.
Cameron’s main contender for the gubernatorial nomination is Kelly Craft, who served as ambassador to the United Nations during the latter half of the Trump administration.
There is little light on the policy between Cameron and Kraft. The two leading Republican candidates have argued over education and positioned themselves as leading resistance to warnings about brainwashing children in schools. It was reported in an advertisement from Kraft warning “to wake up to bureaucrats parachuting in to hijack our children’s futures”. (She received a last-minute endorsement from Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.)
Cameron also chimed in, saying in a Twitter thread in March, “‘Woke’ is very un-American and is being taught as gospel to our children in schools every day.”
There are few public votes in the race, but of the few votes available, Cameron was never far behind. In the final Emerson College Poll poll of New York State Republican primary voters, presumptive candidate Cameron took control of the race with 33 percent support. Craft was only 18%. Ad Impact’s analysis showed that despite the staggering drop in the primary, it won more than $6.5 million, compared to Cameron’s more than $1 million.
“From our data, Cameron’s numbers have improved, especially among older voters,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, told POLITICO. He noted that Kraft fell 6 points between the April and May polls, while Cameron himself rose only 3 percentage points.
“A reasonable assessment at this point is that at least our numbers have some range in Cameroon,” Kimball said.
That potential limitation is worrying Lexington-based Republican strategist Trace Watson, who was involved in a previous campaign for the candidate who trailed both Kraft and Cameron in recent polls. Watson isn’t campaigning for governor, but he’s hearing similar sentiments from people across the state, especially as GOP voters begin to turn their attention to the general election.
“I’m very scared,” Watson said. “From the outside (excited), it looks like a lot of people did, but I think you’re worried when you talk in a closed space.”
For some Conservatives, Cameron is the party’s promise for the future. He has the rare pedigree of securing the coveted endorsement of former President Donald Trump as well as being the successor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Trump is unwavering in his support of Cameron. Speaking in a primetime address at the 2020 Republican National Convention, the Kentucky attorney general introduced Trump to strengthen his ground with supporters at a remote rally on Mother’s Day.
“One of the people who worked so hard to get me across the finish line was my good friend, President Donald J. Trump,” Cameron said in a phone call.
Trump moments later accused Beshear of being too radical for Kentucky, before Cameron filed more than 20 lawsuits against both Beshear and him, saying “everybody needs to go out and be the next governor.” Daniel Cameron needs to be voted out to be.” ,Biden administration for 3 years as AG.
Cameron drew contempt from liberals for not prosecuting a predominantly white Louisville police officer who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a black EMT, during a botched raid on her apartment in March 2020 . His killing, along with those of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and others, became a rallying cry three years ago at the height of the racial justice protests. The Justice Department filed federal charges last summer against four former and current police officers involved in Taylor’s death, alleging that their civil rights were violated and that the officers used excessive force.
Prominent figures such as pop singer Rihanna, NBA icon LeBron James, and actress Kerry Washington are among those who have expressed their displeasure over Taylor’s relationship and directed their anger at Cameron, but none have done so publicly. Has said that he will campaign for Beshear. No one
Watson, a Republican strategist, expects the Democratic Governors Association to empty its coffers to defend Beshear, and wealthy liberal figures, still angry over Cameron’s handling of the Breonna Taylor case, if Cameron wins the nomination. Donate to Democratic Gov.
“It’s a baseball game,” says Watson. “Especially when Cameron is nominated and LeBron and Rihanna are raising money for [Beshear]…what is the pain threshold for the RGA to really be active here and compete on equal terms?”
An official with the Republican Governors Association said he is not concerned about outside figures influencing the general election. They say Beshear, who came to power barely four years ago, barely beat incumbent Matt Bevin (Republican) by about 5,000 votes. Republican officials also pointed out that according to results from the Kentucky State Board of Elections, Cameron received 122,000 more votes than Beshear that year.
Bob Babbage, a longtime Democratic strategist in Kentucky, said Kentucky’s non-delayed election would provide insight and strategy for how other red-state incumbent Democrats might perform before re-election in 2024.
Babbage said, “Kentucky steals the show in the fall and is the prophet or harbinger of future [elections],” adding that this year would be no different.