Sharp Elbows as Republican Primary Candidates for Governor Face Off in KET Debate

During the Kentucky Derby week, for the first and last time in the race for the Republican primary for governor, the top five candidates participated in a 90-minute debate on statewide television.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron, former Ambassador Kelly Craft, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, and former lawyer Eric Deters debated issues from gun control to COVID mandates Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television (KET).

The debate also featured tense moments between Craft and Cameron. Craft has spent millions in negative campaign ads against Cameron, and during the debate, Craft again targeted the attorney general numerous times.

Craft pointed to a Department of Justice Investigation which found civil rights violations in the Louisville Police Department and Louisville Metro Government as proof Cameron was not protecting law enforcement in the state.

The critique drew a rebuke from Cameron, who said Craft is “either naive or doesn’t understand how this works.” Cameron also said he was the law enforcement candidate regardless if Craft “spends $10 million in ads attacking me or not.”

The debate also drew cross-talk as Kelly also pointed to an ethics complaint against Cameron, dropped by one of her supporters. Cameron quickly referenced a coordination issue between Craft’s husband, Joe Craft the CEO of Alliance Coal, who donated $1.5 million to a Super PAC supporting her election.

The point was defended by Eric Deters, who shouted a Craft, telling the candidate her husband is “financing your campaign.” Adding that the Crafts did not donate to President Trump, but rather, “bought an ambassadorship, Kelly.”

The exchange played to Keck’s strategy, who sought to calm tensions in the room and play to being the adult.

“The last 10 minutes are what’s wrong with politics,” Keck said. “We need to lift each other up.”

Deters, cut him off shouting, “That doesn’t work.”

Earlier in the debate, Deters also sought to define Craft as being from Oklahoma. On Monday, he filed a motion in Fayette Circuit Court alleging Craft does not meet the state Constitutional requirements for residing in the state for 6-years. He said his “road map,” was the case against Hunter Bates in 2003, which led to his disqualification.

The candidates were asked about gun control after the mass shooting in Louisville that led to 5 people killed, and 8 wounded. All of the candidates said they did not support additional gun laws. Cameron said the state needed a Kentucky State Police post in Louisville, and Deters said guns should be allowed in schools.

All of the candidates sought to attack Democratic incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear on his handling of COVID. Quarles said if a new pandemic took place again he would not shutdown schools or businesses.

The election will take place on May 16.