Daniel Cameron, Kentucky’s attorney general and a close ally of Senator Mitch McConnell, won the Republican nomination for governor of the state on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. .
Mr. Cameron’s victory kicks off what will likely be the most watched and hotly contested race statewide in 2023. Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat running for re-election, is one of the most popular governors in the country, and even Republicans think he will be hard to beat in November.
But Republicans have long seen Mr. Cameron as a potential political star who could join the party’s next generation of leaders. Mr. Cameron has had a groundbreaking career — he was the first black man elected attorney general in Kentucky and the first Republican elected to the post in 50 years — and his campaign is likely to receive the support of agents and donors outside Kentucky.
Part of Mr. Beshear’s power comes from the Republicans’ dominance of the state. The party has a supermajority in the legislature, making it difficult for the governor to wield much power without a veto. Still, that dynamic has allowed Mr. Beshear to avoid contentious confrontations with Republicans over hot-button issues and to focus on using state resources to help repair infrastructure and improve the economy.
Mr. Beshear has remained largely silent during the primary, running a scaled-down digital ad campaign that focused on his record of expanding voting rights and presiding over economic expansion in the state.
Though Mr. Cameron was elected Attorney General of Kentucky in 2019, he came full on the national stage with a primetime speech at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
He became an instant favorite of former President Donald J. Trump, who supported his campaign nearly a year before the primary. Mr. Cameron put Mr. Trump’s support at the heart of his campaign to lead Kentucky, which the former president won by more than 25 percentage points in 2020.
Mr Cameron’s tenure as Attorney General has led to numerous clashes with the federal government. They include his fight against vaccine requirements for federal contractors and trying to prevent the Biden administration from allowing the expiry of Title 42, Trump’s Covid-era immigration policy that ended Thursday. He has also filed lawsuits against Mr Beshear, including seeking new limits on abortion access.
These legal wrestlings became a cornerstone of his stupid speech.
“When Governor Beshear decided to close churches, I went to federal court and after nine days I got churches reopened in Kentucky,” Mr. Cameron said at a campaign stop in Shepherdsville last month, citing early pandemic regulations.
Mr Cameron, a former aide to Mr McConnell, was expected to run for nomination because of his ties to the powerful Senate Minority Leader and Mr Trump. But the race tightened after Ms. Craft, who belongs to one of the largest Republican mega-donor families in the country, began pouring millions of her own money into the race and flooded the airwaves with advertisements. Mr. Cameron didn’t have the resources to keep up.
The bruising nature of the primary left some Kentucky Republicans concerned about their prospects in the general election.
For nearly two months, Ms. Craft was the only major candidate with advertisements of her or her allies on television. Combined, she and her allies spent more than $7 million on advertising, compared to just $2.6 million spent by Mr. Cameron and his supporters, according to AdImpact, an advertising tracking company.
Her campaign attacked Mr. Cameron for supporting the closure of a coal plant (the coal plant in question was in West Virginia) and chided him for not opposing the Justice Department’s investigation into the Louisville Police Department after police officers Breonna Taylor during a botched raid on her apartment in 2020. She also attempted to portray Mr. Cameron as a “follower” of Mr. McConnell, a rare public dig of a man who has led Kentucky politics for nearly 40 years.
Mr. Cameron received a belated boost from an allied political action committee, Bluegrass Freedom Action, which received most of its funding from the Concord Fund, part of a network of influential conservative groups run by activist Leonard A. Leo . The group spent $2.1 million in the last six weeks of the primary to help Mr. Cameron and attack Ms. Craft.