Daniel Cameron needs to focus on Kentucky’s challenges, not cultural attacks

by Vanessa Gallman, Kentucky Lantern

Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s resounding victory in the Republican primary for Kentucky governor is an historic milestone. As the first Black person to be nominated for the office by either party, he has a chance to become the first Black Republican governor from any state.

The win also factors in analyses of the clout and possible comeback of former President Donald Trump, who strongly endorsed Cameron. “The Trump culture of winning is alive and well in Kentucky,” Cameron declared during his victory speech, responding to reasonable complaints that Trump has caused party losses.

However, after a GOP slugfest that motivated few to vote, Kentuckians need a General Election about how the state should solve long-term problems and take full advantage of new opportunities.

Some issues that need to be fully addressed: helping those impacted by frequent flooding; finding workers for the current economic expansion; addressing the shortage of teachers, nurses, and physicians; and curbing drug addiction and poverty.

Is he just another Trump acolyte committed to supporting his divisive movement? Or, could this McConnell mentee help his party regain more practical political moorings?

Whether Cameron is up to that task remains to be seen. He hews closely to right-wing cultural attacks, joining other GOP AGs in a range of lawsuits and letters denouncing abortion rights, environmental regulations, transgender care, and diversity efforts.

“The new religion of the left casts doubt on the greatness of America,” he said in his victory speech. “They embrace a picture of this country and this commonwealth that is rooted in division, that is hostile to faith and that is committed to the erosion of our education system.”

Gov. Andy Beshear, one of the nation’s most popular governors, warned in his victory speech about GOP rhetoric:

“They’re trying to pit us against each other,” he said, “calling anybody who disagrees with them names, telling you it’s OK to yell, even hate your fellow human being. We are so much stronger than that.”

Cameron, an Elizabethtown native who played football and attended law school at the University of Louisville, has had a rapid political rise. It helped that he was legal counsel for Sen. Mitch McConnell while McConnell was majority leader. In his speech at the 2020 GOP convention, he criticized the removal of Confederate statues as “an assault on Western civilization.” With a pleasant demeanor, he shows up across the state and on social media to promote his office, as well as his family.

He touts his decision to join a Nicholasville church’s lawsuit objecting to Beshear’s pandemic ban on mass meetings. A judge ruled in his favor; Beshear adjusted his policy to allow drive-in church services. Cameron also filed a lawsuit for Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee that blocked President Joe Biden’s order that federal contractors get vaccinated. The order was never enforced anywhere.

International, mostly negative attention focused on his investigation into the 2020 death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville medical technician killed by police during a misguided raid on her apartment.

Cameron’s grand jury issued no charges for her murder, and some jurors criticized him for protecting officers from prosecution and saying that they found the shooting justified. Meanwhile, the city quickly settled a $12 million wrongful death lawsuit and agreed to new policies, such as ending no-knock warrants.

In March, the federal Department of Justice charged four of the officers involved in the raid with crimes including civil-rights offenses, unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction. That investigation also outlined a range of problems the police have agreed to address.

Cameron continues to defend his investigation and to tout unwavering support for law enforcement. Yet he criticizes the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal case against Trump’s hush-money payments to a porn actor as weaponizing the judicial system “to try to destroy Trump.” And he feigned ignorance of the recent civil verdict that Trump sexually assaulted a woman in the 1990s and later defamed her.

So, right now it’s hard to know what we have in Cameron.

Is he just another Trump acolyte committed to supporting his divisive movement? Or, could this McConnell mentee help his party regain more practical political moorings?

Is he a moral crusader who rejects those who don’t live up to what he calls “Kentucky values”? Or someone eager to negotiate substantive ideas to serve all?

Either way, it’s going to be a rough and tumble campaign season with a lot of national attention and overwhelming money dumps from both parties.

Let’s demand that the needs of Kentucky citizens don’t get lost in the process.

Photo: GOP gubernatorial nominee Daniel Cameron and his wife Makenze during his election party on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at the Galt House in Louisville. (Austin Anthony / for the Kentucky Kernel)