Daniel Cameron’s big moment

Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron won an easy primary victory Tuesday to secure the GOP nomination for governor, beating out two impressive opponents -- Kelly Craft, the wealthy former UN ambassador in the Trump administration, and Ryan Quarles, the highly regarded two-term state agricultural commissioner. Cameron led throughout in the polls and the fall match-up with Democrat incumbent Andy Beshear will be the most watched and expensive race in 2023.

As I wrote four years ago, when he won his first office, Cameron is a true political talent. What other candidate has both Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell fighting to be in his corner? McConnell, his mentor, raised quite a bit of money while Trump cut ads and telecampaigned for him.

(Strangely, DeSantis endorsed Craft but waited until election morning, when it was meaningless. I assume this is just a shift of allegiance by Craft and her billionaire husband, when Trump would not endorse her. Especially after they raised big bucks for Trump last year, even hosting a lavish event at the Kentucky Derby. The Crafts will, no doubt, be key DeSantis fundraisers later this year)

It was thought Cameron might wait to run for the U.S. Senate seat McConnell will vacate in 2026, but Cameron sensed now was his time. If he wins, he becomes the only black governor in America, a national GOP figure, and the leader of what has become a very prosperous state, with massive Republican majorities in the state legislature.

Andy Beshear begins as the favorite, for now anyway, thanks to his $6 million war chest and a friendly legacy media, that allowed him to skate past his awful leadership during the COVID crisis. Opinion polls show him one of the more popular governors.

But those polls may prove a mirage once negative TV ads hit him. Like every other Democrat governor during COVID, he became drunk with power, intent on shutting churches, schools, and businesses. All this while Kentucky state government imploded in 2020, unable to carry out basic functions such as registering people for unemployment insurance.

To be fair, the administrative quagmire in Frankfort was not all Andy’s fault, it was also that of his father, Steve, the governor from 2007 to 2015, who had a long record of incompetence and corruption, leading to convictions of several members of the Beshear political machine. Add to that financial mismanagement of Kentucky state pensions.

Thankfully, the Republican legislature cleaned house, fixing the pension crisis, passing pro-business reforms such as Right to Work, reducing taxes, and embracing the conservative social agenda from anti-woke to constitutional carry. Kentucky, after decades in the doldrums, fits in nicely with its economically vibrant neighbors like Tennessee and Indiana, using the same conservative formula.  

As governor, Cameron would be in position to further lead the state into real national prominence, much as Ron DeSantis has done for Florida. 

First, of course, he will have to beat Andy Beshear, who will have his own aggressive TV ads from now until November. But Cameron is a cool customer. He won kudos around the state by suing Beshear to stop the lockdowns right at the beginning and in the riot summer of 2020 he would not allow the Brionna Taylor grand jury run away on an anti-police vendetta.

One of the key issues Cameron may use against Beshear is the crime in Louisville. Kentucky is generally a very safe place, but the poor minority section of Louisville is infested with deadly drug gangs, thanks to years of neglect by the Democrat mayors of that city, while Democrat governors looked the other way. Cameron has floated the idea of putting a State Police post in the middle of the city to take on these criminals, something that horrifies Beshear. Like all Democrats these days, he believes if you just ignore serious crime, it might go away. But there is a growing trend in Red State governments to take direct action on crime in their Blue Cities.  

Ultimately, Beshear remains the same uninspiring figure, who barely won four years ago, thanks only to a polarizing Republican governor and a Trump backlash. Very few Kentucky voters today are enthusiastic about Beshear or Joe Biden. Meanwhile, the interest is growing about Daniel Cameron, the GOP’s next-generation star. 

 Frank Friday is an attorney in Louisville, KY.

Image: Office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron

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