Incumbent Governor Andy Beshear (D) secured an easy win in last night’s Democratic primary with 91% of the vote defeating two challengers. Beshear was first elected to the position in 2019, upsetting then-Republican Governor Matt Bevin by just 5,000 votes. He previously served as the state’s attorney general from 2016 to 2019. On the campaign trail, he is elevating the economic progress his administration advanced during his first term and his plans to build on this momentum. Beshear is also promoting his Education First plan, which would increase teacher pay and expand public pre-kindergarten when passed.
The Republican primary for governor saw a crowded field of 12 candidates. Attorney General Daniel Cameron and former Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft led in polls leading up to the primary. While a poll in January showed Cameron well ahead of Craft, more recent polling showed a much closer race. The two held a debate on May 1, along with three other candidates, hosted by Kentucky Educational Television. Craft criticized Cameron and Bluegrass Freedom Action, a group that supports Cameron’s election effort, for taking more than $100,000 in contributions from Pace-O-Matic–a “gray machine” manufacturer that is currently suing the state after it recently enacted a ban on skill games. Cameron flaunted his Trump endorsement, which Craft had told voters she would receive, and highlighted her lack of law enforcement endorsements.
In the end, Cameron secured the Republican party’s nomination with nearly 48% of the vote. He served as legal counsel to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) before securing the post of attorney general in 2019. Defeating Gregory Stumbo (D) by over 16 percentage points, Cameron was the first African American elected to a standalone statewide office in Kentucky history and is the first Republican to hold the Office of Attorney General since 1948. Like many of his Republican counterparts, Cameron condemned Governor Beshear’s emergency orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. He himself has also come under scrutiny: Following the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in 2020, the Louisville branch of the NAACP said that Cameron failed to conduct a fair investigation into the incident and mischaracterized the grand-jury proceedings. Cameron is running on a platform that includes strong support for law enforcement and addressing Kentucky’s drug epidemic. Cameron raised over $300,000 for his campaign leading up to the primary.
The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball have rated the gubernatorial race as leaning Democratic: As the frontrunner, Beshear will be going into his re-election contest in a rare position for a red state Democrat. The governor enjoyed a 63% approval rating in Q1 according to Morning Consult, making him the country’s most popular Democratic governor and fifth most popular head of state overall. Nonetheless, this seat is being heavily targeted by Republican organizations and outside groups that believe a flip is possible.
Facing no challengers within their respective parties, Russell Coleman (R) and Colonel (Ret.) Pamela Stevenson (D) were not on a primary ballot and have already begun to focus on the general election for attorney general of the Bluegrass State.
Coleman, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky and a former FBI agent, is running on a law-and-order platform, pledging to support law enforcement and target drug-trafficking organizations. In his four years as U.S. Attorney for the Western District, Coleman opened the first full-time U.S. Attorney’s Office in Bowling Green and focused his crime-fighting efforts across the Commonwealth. Before serving as U.S. Attorney, Coleman served as a volunteer Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Oldham County and as senior advisor and legal counsel to Senator McConnell. Coleman has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Stevenson, a two-term member of the Kentucky House of Representatives and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, plans to focus on countering extremist legislation, gasoline price gouging, and the opioid epidemic. During a career that spanned four continents and two decades, Stevenson served as a Judge Advocate General prosecuting crimes and representing servicemembers and the Air Force in civil matters. Stevenson has been endorsed by Governor Beshear.