LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Daniel Cameron won the Republican primary for Kentucky’s governor on Tuesday, becoming the first black major-party candidate for governor in state history and delivering a showdown in November Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear.
Cameron, the state’s Attorney General, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, claimed a convincing victory over a Field with 12 candidates These included Kelly Craft, who served as United Nations ambassador to the Trump administration, and the state commissioner of agriculture, Ryan Quarles. Beshear easily prevailed in his own primary against two unappreciated Democratic challengers.
Cameron, the state’s first black attorney general, would be the state’s first black governor if elected. In his victory speech on Tuesday, he emphasized the historic nature of his nomination and said his campaign aims to “embody America’s promise that if you work hard and stand by principle, anything is possible.”
“Anyone who looks like me should know that they can achieve anything,” Cameron told his supporters. “You know that in this country and in Kentucky, only your values count.”
The race now shifts to the general election, which will be one of the most watched elections in November and could provide clues to next year’s presidential election. Beshear, a popular Democratic governor, will face a tough re-election in a Republican-dominated state after his first term was marred by a series of tragedies – the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and a mass shooting that killed one of his closest friends.
Beshear on Tuesday hailed his stewardship of Kentucky’s economy, citing record economic development successes in setting the stage for his re-election campaign this fall. And he slammed the tone of the Republican gubernatorial primary after months of criticizing Republican candidates.
“Right now, somewhere in America, a CEO is deciding where to move his company and he’s thinking about Kentucky,” Beshear told a gathering of supporters. “Let me ask you, will seeing people badmouth our state and our economy, insult our people, and foment divisions help the next company choose Kentucky? Of course not.”
Fall’s duel between Beshear and Cameron evokes parallels to the race for the state’s last governor, albeit with a role reversal for the governor. In 2019, Beshear used the attorney general’s office as a stepping stone to the governorship. During his only term as attorney general, Beshear challenged a series of actions by then-governor, Republican Matt Bevin. Beshear narrowly defeated Bevin in a race centered around Bevin’s combative personality.
Turnout was low in many places as it rained across much of the state throughout the day, the Secretary of State’s office said. Storm warnings have been issued in some areas, but there have been no reports of voting disruptions. Poll workers hoped for a surge in turnout after the storms passed.
Cameron succeeded Beshear in the office of Attorney General, and the Republican turned the tables on Beshear by launching numerous state and national legal actions against Democrat policies that endeared him to Conservatives. Cameron led the successful challenge that essentially halted the governor’s COVID-era restrictions, which Cameron said amounted to executive overreach. Beshear says his actions saved lives and that he relied heavily on guidance from Trump’s coronavirus task force.
A former advisor to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Cameron has risen in the political ranks to become one of the country’s most prominent black Republicans. His victory Tuesday will aid Trump’s efforts to cement his status as Republican Party leader ahead of the 2024 presidential primary.
If Beshear follows his campaign formula of 2019, he will avoid speaking about Trump or delving into divisive national issues that risk further strengthening his opponent’s conservative base.
He’s also expected to draw on his family’s strong political brand — his father, Steve Beshear, is a former two-term Kentucky governor who spoke at his son’s pre-primary victory celebration on Tuesday — and after himself Assuming his role as leader through adversity through a variety of adversity crises during his first term.
In the process, Beshear emerged as the frontman, holding daily pandemic briefings for months and then leading the relief effort to help those devastated by tornadoes and flooding.
Last month, Beshear publicly and emotionally mourned the loss of a close friend who died when a Louisville bank teller opened fire with an assault rifle, killing five colleagues. He has frequently cited his Christian faith as a cornerstone of his efforts to guide the state through difficult times.
In addition to Craft and Quarles, Cameron also defeated accountant Mike Harmon and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, among others.
But it was the fierce rivalry between Cameron and Craft that dominated the primaries. Cameron endured an advertising boom from Craft’s campaign – backed by her family’s fortune – and an outside group supporting her campaign. The pro-craft group portrayed Cameron as an “establishment teddy bear” and claimed he wasn’t tough enough as attorney general. A pro-Cameron group hit back with attacks against Craft, who secured last-minute support from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Cameron’s handling of an investigation into the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police in 2020 could come under scrutiny again as he campaigns as the Republican Party candidate. Taylor’s death and the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked protests across the country.
In announcing a grand jury’s findings on Taylor’s death, Cameron said the jury “agreed” that a murder charge against the officers was not warranted because they were shot. Three of the jurors disputed Cameron’s account, arguing that Cameron’s associates restricted their discretion and did not give them an opportunity to consider the murder charge against police related to Taylor’s death.
Cameron’s immediate attention will be on building the party’s unity for the autumn campaign, a task for which he has proven his ability in the past. He bridged the rift between Trump and McConnell despite a growing rift between the two GOP heavyweights. Cameron served as the senator’s legal counsel and made a widely publicized pitch for Trump’s unsuccessful re-election campaign at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
The gubernatorial campaign led the primaries for other constitutional offices in Kentucky.
Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, who successfully lobbied for expanded voter access, won his primary against two candidates, including one who questioned the integrity of the election. In his re-election campaign in November he meets the Democrat Charles “Buddy” Wheatley.
Other primary winners included Republican Allison Ball, who is running for comptroller after two terms as Treasurer and now faces Democrat Kimberley Reeder, who ran unopposed. Garrard District Attorney Mark Metcalf won the GOP primary for state treasurer, facing Democrat Michael Bowman in November. Republican Jonathan Shell and Democrat Sierra Enlow, who won their respective primaries, are running in the general election campaign for the commissioner of agriculture. Republican Russell Coleman will face Democrat Pam Stevenson in the fall election campaign for attorney general. Both had no opponent in the primary.