Kentucky Republicans selected state attorney general Daniel Cameron as their gubernatorial challenger to incumbent Democrat Andy Beshear, who faces a difficult reelection bid in a state that overwhelmingly backed former president Donald Trump in 2020.
Cameron, a longtime ally of Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell who was endorsed by Trump, led all Republicans with 46 percent of the vote when the Associated Press called the gubernatorial primary Tuesday evening. Cameron in 2019 succeeded Beshear as Kentucky's attorney general and will now look to replace the Democrat in the state's governor's mansion.
The race is expected to be a difficult one for Beshear, who in 2019 defeated the nation's least popular governor, incumbent Republican Matt Bevin, by less than one point. Four years later, the Democrat will face a more formidable challenger in a state Republicans have dominated in recent elections. Trump, for example, won Kentucky by 26 points in 2020, and GOP senator Rand Paul also cruised to reelection last year. Paul defeated liberal challenger Charles Booker by a whopping 23 points.
Still, Beshear has overcome long political odds in the past. In addition to his defeat of Bevin, the Democrat in 2015 ousted Republican Whitney Westerfield by 2,000 votes to become Kentucky's 50th attorney general. Beshear has also enjoyed a high approval rating—63 percent of Kentucky voters approve of the Democrat's job as governor, according to an April Morning Consult poll.
Beshear will likely face criticism over his response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Democrat in August 2021, for example, issued an executive order mandating masks in Kentucky schools. Beshear quickly rescinded the order after the state's Supreme Court ruled in favor of laws that limited his emergency power, but the Democrat defended the policy nonetheless.
"The position we put forth, I still think is right," Beshear said at the time. "But we lost. I lost."
The Republican Governors Association argued that Beshear’s education policies would come back to bite him come November.
"Daniel Cameron’s no nonsense conservative record and history of delivering results for Kentucky families will stand in sharp contrast to Andy Beshear’s liberal priorities," the group said in a statement. "Whether it’s surrounding himself with extreme liberals, fighting to close churches, or pushing a radical agenda on children in Kentucky schools, Andy Beshear has proven he is not right for Kentucky."