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Kentucky Public Radio Voter Guide: Daniel Cameron runs for governor

Daniel Cameron smiles and points above camera standing at lectern in semi-outdoor setting.
Hannah Saad
/
WKMS
Daniel Cameron at the Fancy Farm Political Picnic in 2023.

Daniel Cameron is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear instead of running for reelection to his job as the state's top law enforcement officer.

He is the state's first Black attorney general, and, if he wins in November, he would be the first Black Republican governor ever elected in the nation.

Republican

Age: 37

Residence: Louisville

Occupation: Lawyer

Previous elected/government experience: Attorney General (2019 - 2023), legal counsel to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell

Campaign website: https://cameronforkentucky.com/

Running mate: State Sen. Robby Mills

Cameron declined to be interviewed for this voter guide, as did Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear.

Abortion

Cameron's position on abortion has evolved over the course of the campaign. He initially said he supports Kentucky's abortion ban, which only allows the procedure in life-threatening emergencies, but recently changed his position, saying he would support allowing the procedure in cases of rape of incest if forced to by a court ruling.

Here's the timeline:

During the crowded primary race, Cameron said he was committed to defending the ban "as is." He confirmed his position in a Kentucky Right to Life questionnaire, which dubbed him as an “unwavering defender of Kentucky’s Pro-Life Laws.“

But after Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear aired ads attacking Cameron's position, the attorney general appeared on the Tony & Dwight show on NewsRadio 840 WHAS and seemingly changed his long-held position.

“If our legislature was to bring legislation before me that provided exceptions for rape and incest, I would sign that legislation. There’s no question about that,” Cameron said.

Then, at a recent campaign event in London, Ky., Cameron appeared to reassure a supporter concerned about his softened stance on the ban. In the audio recording, Cameron told the woman he still supported the ban.

“We are in a fight with the courts right now. And so if the courts were to strike down and say that we needed to add [exceptions], of course I would sign that because I still want to protect life. But that would just be based on if our courts made that change. It wouldn’t be me, proactively,” Cameron said.

Climate change

Cameron has portrayed himself as the defender of fossil fuels. During a forum hosted by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Cameron called coal a “signature industry,” alongside horses and bourbon.

“You think about what the Biden administration wants to do. They want to destroy our fossil fuels industry by 2035. That would devastate Kentucky's economy,” Cameron said. “We are the seventh largest generator of coal. And because of it, we have some of the lowest cost and [most] reliable energy in the nation.”

Cameron has also pledged to fight the Environmental Protection Agency at every turn, which is something he has also done as attorney general. He is fighting the EPA’s new standards for greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and President Joe Biden’s planned transition to electric vehicles.

Education

Cameron has long criticized Beshear’s decision to take schools virtual during the COVID–19 pandemic, saying it caused “learning loss." Cameron called for a 16-week tutoring program to boost falling reading and math proficiency in the state.

“I stand in support of expanding opportunities and choices around Kentucky,” Cameron said. “But again, this is about our education system here in the Commonwealth as it relates to public education. So many kids are in the system right now. And so many kids have been failed by Andy Beshear.”

Cameron has veered away from talking about so-called "school choice" and charter schools during the general election, but he supported the GOP-backed plan for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit to people who donate money for scholarships to cover nonpublic school tuition. Kentucky’s Supreme Court eventually ruled the program unconstitutional.

Cameron’s plan does not call for universal teacher pay raises, instead proposing a statewide base starting pay rate for new teachers at $41,500.

Income tax

For the second year in a row, the state legislature voted to lower the state’s income tax. But this year, the state’s economy did not fulfill one of the requirements the legislature specified to trigger another cut for the next legislative session.

Regardless, Cameron says that he will be the governor to eliminate the income tax.

“Look, at the end of the day, this is about your hard-earned money and making sure that you keep it in your pocket,” Cameron said at the Chamber of Commerce forum. “I don't think you should be penalized for deciding to get up every morning and go to work.”

Medicaid

During a candidate forum, Cameron called Beshear a “welfare governor,” contrasting himself as the would-be “workforce governor.”

“The Beshear family legacy is one of expanding the welfare state and creating a culture of dependency that threatens not only our economy, but also the very nature of who we are as people,” Cameron said.

Kentucky is one of 40 states that expanded Medicaid after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Former Gov. Steve Beshear expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2014 to include adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

Cameron said he does not intend to roll back the Medicaid expansion, but said he wants to require “able-bodied individuals” to prove they are working or seeking work in order to keep benefits.

“When I talked to our health care providers, the expansion of Medicaid was important, particularly for our rural providers; I understand that,” Cameron said. “But what I don't understand is if you expand Medicaid coverage to able-bodied individuals, why we didn't condition that on some sort of work requirement.”

In response to a survey created by Northern Kentucky Right to Life earlier this year, Cameron responded that “yes,” he would actively work to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Public safety

Cameron unveiled a 12-point public safety plan that called for a $5,000 retention bonus for officers, adding a Kentucky State Police post to Louisville and increasing penalties for crimes like murder of a police officer, drug trafficking that leads to an overdose and fatal carjacking.

"I do want to send a strong message that we want our law enforcement community to understand that they are protected and that they are cared for because they protect and serve our communities across the Commonwealth," Cameron said.

A group of Louisville Republican lawmakers proposed a similar initiative this year called the Safer Kentucky Act.

Cameron also said he hopes to expand police powers by allowing wiretapping in some police operations and limiting the powers of civilian review boards that monitor police misconduct.

"Giving unelected, unaccountable activists the ability to investigate and harass police officers does not promote public safety or increase public trust," Cameron said.

Racial justice

Daniel Cameron gained national attention for not recommending officers be charged for their role in the killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020.

Cameron said his handling of the case showed he refuses to bow to public pressure, even when protestors demonstrated outside his home and he received threats.

“It was our responsibility to uncover the truth. I know the truth will make some people uncomfortable,” Cameron said at the time. “Some in the public already made a determination about where they wanted to see this case conclude without all the facts.”

The NAACP called for Cameron to resign after members of the grand jury filed a petition to impeach Cameron over his handling of the proceedings.

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.