Daniel Cameron won the Republican primary for Kentucky governor on Tuesday, becoming the first major-party black nominee for governor in state history and setting up a November showdown with Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear.
Cameron, the state’s attorney general who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, emerged victorious from a 12-candidate field that included Kelly Kraft, who served as U.N. ambassador in the Trump administration, and state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. Bessier easily dispatched two under-the-radar Democratic challengers in his own primary.
Cameron, the state’s first black attorney general, would become the state’s first black governor if elected.
Silas Walker/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
The race now shifts to the general election, which will be one of November’s most closely watched contests and could provide clues heading into next year’s presidential race. Bessier, a popular Democratic governor, faces a tough re-election bid in a Republican-dominated state after a first term marked by a series of tragedies — the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and a Mass shooting last month in Louisville that killed five people, including one of his closest friends.
The fall matchup between Beshear and Cameron parallels the state’s last gubernatorial race but is a role reversal for the governor. In 2019, Bessier used the attorney general’s office as a springboard to the governorship. During his single term as attorney general, Bessier challenged multiple executive actions by then-governor Republican Matt Bevin. Bessier narrowly defeated Bevin in a race that revolved around Bevin’s combative personality.
Voter turnout was light in many places as rain lashed most parts of the state for part of the day, the office of the state secretary said. Although storm warnings were issued in some areas, there were no reports of polling disruptions. Election officials expected voter turnout to pick up after the storm passed.
Cameron succeeded Bessier in the attorney general’s office, and turned the tables on Bessier, a Republican. Many legal challenges mount Against the state and national democratic principles that endeared him to conservatives. Cameron led the successful challenge that essentially halted the governor’s Covid-era bans, which Cameron said amounted to executive overreach. Beshear says his work has saved lives and he leans heavily on the direction of Trump’s coronavirus task force.
A former aide to Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, Cameron has risen through the political ranks to become one of the nation’s most prominent black Republicans.
The current era of divided government in Kentucky has led to a series of policy conflicts between Beshear and Republican lawmakers, who have overridden multiple Beshear vetoes to put their stamp on state policy.
If Bessier follows his campaign formula from 2019, he will avoid talking about Trump or talking about polarizing issues that could risk emboldening his opponent’s conservative base.
He is also expected to draw on his family’s strong political brand — his father, Steve Bessier, is a former two-term Kentucky governor — and lean into the role of leading through adversity after a series of crises in his first term.
The worldwide epidemic killed more than 18,000 Kentuckians. Tornado outbreak in late 2021 Killed thousands of people In western Kentucky, widespread flooding in the summer of 2022 in Appalachia killed dozens more Kentuckians.
Through it all, Bessier emerged as the front man, conducting daily epidemic briefings for several months and then leading relief efforts to help those left devastated by tornadoes and floods.
Last month, Bessier publicly and emotionally mourned the loss of a close friend who died when a Louisville bank employee opened fire with an assault-style rifle, killing five co-workers. He has often invoked his Christian faith as the foundation of his efforts to lead the state through difficult times.
In addition to Craft and Quarles, Cameron also defeated state Auditor Mike Harmon and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.
Quarles, offering a methodical, activist-like approach to the campaign, hoped the support he had built during nearly two terms in statewide office would help him overcome his two main opponents. He received several endorsements from local GOP officials
But it was the bitter rivalry between Cameron and Kraft that dominated the early campaign. Cameron endured an advertising push by Kraft’s campaign — backed by his family’s fortune — and an outside group backed his campaign. Pro-Kraft groups have portrayed Cameron as an “establishment teddy bear” and claimed he was not tough enough as attorney general. A pro-Cameron group fired back with an attack against Kraft, who received a last-minute endorsement from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Cameron conducts an investigation Deadly shooting Breonna Taylor may come under renewed scrutiny by Louisville police in 2020 as she campaigns for the GOP nomination. Taylor’s death and the police-related killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have sparked nationwide protests.
In declaration a Grand Jury Findings In Taylor’s death, Cameron said jurors “agreed” that manslaughter charges against the officers were not warranted because they were fired upon. Three of the jurors disputed Cameron’s account, arguing that Cameron’s staff had limited their scope and not given the opportunity to consider manslaughter charges against police in Taylor’s death.