Following a dominant victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron believes he knows exactly how to unseat the state’s popular Democratic governor — by focusing on his record that Cameron believes conflicts with the “values in Kentucky.”
Cameron, the candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump, handily won the Republican nomination Tuesday with 47.7% support, trouncing the second place candidate Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles by 26 points. The attorney general’s “strategy” for defeating Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in November is to highlight the governor’s policies, largely hinging on parental rights in education and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, he told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview.
“That is the strategy — to make sure people know that Andy Beshear has been hiding in plain sight, and we’ve got to remind people of who he is, what he’s done, and how he’s failed us over these last three years,” Cameron told the DCNF.
While Kentucky leans heavily Republican, the task isn’t so easy; Beshear is a formidable opponent, routinely polling as one of the most popular governors and touting a 63% approval rating, according to an April 19 Morning Consult poll. Beshear is ranked the fifth-most popular governor behind four Republican state executives, making him the most popular Democratic governor in the country.
Cameron, who made history Tuesday as the first black Kentuckian to serve as the gubernatorial nominee for a major political party, sees openings in Beshear’s stances on social issues, particularly parental rights in education and transgender ideology, which differ from positions held in most of the state’s Republican electorate, he told the DCNF.
Beshear vetoed legislation on March 24 that would have banned gender reassignment surgeries on minors, prohibited schools from requiring teachers to use “preferred pronouns” in the classroom and required parental notification for a child’s transition. The GOP-controlled legislature overrode the governor’s veto, and Cameron is currently defending the legislation in court after several families filed suit against the law, claiming it infringed on their rights.
The governor also vetoed a bill in 2022 that barred biological males from competing in women’s sports, where he refused to sign the legislation, claiming it “discriminates against transgender people.” The legislature overruled him, holding that an athlete’s gender will be determined by their “biological sex” as it appears on their birth certificate.
“Our parents want our kids to be taught reading, writing and math, and not to let our schools be incubators for progressive and liberal ideas,” Cameron said.
Under Beshear’s leadership, “liberal” ideologies have bled into school systems, and are largely promoted by Kentucky’s Department of Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass, according to Cameron.
Glass previously came under fire by Kentucky Republicans for saying that if teachers don’t abide by school guidance instructing them to call students by pronouns that don’t correspond to their sex, they should find another job.
“That’s not the right answer,” said Cameron. “The right answer is that Andy Beshear and the commissioner of the Department of Education need to find new jobs, and I’m certainly going to help them do that in November.”
Cameron promised one of the first things he will do as governor is to start the process of removing the Beshear-aligned commissioner.
Cameron also plans to focus on Beshear’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, he told the DCNF.
Beshear shut down churches during the pandemic, and wouldn’t allow them to hold in-person services on Easter Sunday. The governor imposed the state’s stay-at-home order, and promised to record license plates of parishioners that attended church. In early April, a federal appeals court ordered Beshear to pay $270,000 in attorney fees to three individuals who sued the governor for infringing on their right to assemble to worship.
The governor also imposed a travel ban via two executive orders during the pandemic, which limited Kentuckians ability to leave the state without a valid reason and required them to quarantine for 14 days if their reason didn’t suffice; the portion of Beshear’s ban that restricted interstate travel was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.
In 2021, Beshear vetoed two bills that took away his ability to continue imposing mask mandates at schools and elsewhere; the bills nullified emergency orders mandating masks, leaving it up to local authorities and businesses. The Republican legislature overruled the governor, further indicating their displeasure with Beshear’s handling of the pandemic.
“Time and time again we have stood up against Andy Beshear and against the overreach that he demonstrated, and that is what people want — they want someone that’s going to represent their values,” said Cameron. “I represent the values in Kentucky, and he does not.”
Nevertheless, while Cameron believes some of Beshear’s actions don’t reflect Kentucky’s values, Beshear ranks as one of the most popular governors in the country.
“I think he’s the favorite,” Kentucky Republican consultant Scott Jennings told Politico. “Do I think he can be beaten? Yeah, I do. But I think it’s going to be expensive, and it’s going to take a while.”
Thank you for believing in me and supporting this movement. Kentucky Republicans are united. It’s time for bold conservative leadership in the Commonwealth.
Come November, we’re going to retire Andy Beshear. Let’s do this thing! #TeamCameron pic.twitter.com/BcJGSMMHuk
— Daniel Cameron (@DanielCameronAG) May 18, 2023
Cameron also promised to bolster Kentucky’s law enforcement to combat increasing crime across the state, as well as impose work requirements for Medicaid eligibility.
The attorney general said Beshear has “done nothing but sit on his hands” as cities like Louisville have “run rampant” with crime; Cameron also argued that Beshear has failed to sufficiently address skyrocketing rates of fentanyl use in the state. Since Beshear was elected in 2019, Kentucky’s rate of violent crime has increased substantially, according to the FBI’s Crime Date Explorer.
The leading cause for Kentucky’s rise in death toll is the increased use of fentanyl, according to the state’s Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. In 2021, there was a 14.5% increase in drug overdose deaths, with fentanyl contributing to roughly 70% of them.
Beshear narrowly won his 2019 election by only 5,000 votes, defeating incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who succeeded Beshear’s father Gov. Steve Beshear, 49.2% to 48.8%, according to Ballotpedia. The governor’s victory, which was the only Democratic win on the ballot, was partly due to Bevin’s lack of popularity among Republicans following numerous scandals, several GOP Kentucky experts previously told the DCNF.
Beshear’s campaign did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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