Where the Race for KY Governor Stands Heading into Summer

Kentucky’s gubernatorial election is the premiere race in the country as pundits seek to sharpen their analysis of the country’s mood ahead of the next presidential election.

First-term Gov. Andy Beshear is a red-state Democratic leader with popularity and a story to tell. He faces Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a close ally seen as a son to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who is endorsed by Trump and stands at the precipice of history as the first Black nominee for governor in the Commonwealth.

Beshear is expected to lean heavily into what he has done, as he drops the party affiliation to focus on the things that unite Kentuckians. He has lead the state through multiple natural disasters including devastating flooding in Eastern Kentucky and deadly tornadoes in West Kentucky. As the leader of the state, Beshear also gets credit for attracting billions in investments into the state – including a deal that will be part of his epitaph with the $5.8 billion investment from Ford, bringing 5,000 Kentucky jobs, the influx of high-tech engineers, scientists, and suppliers for the wave of the future electric car battery industry, which is already paying off as other e-battery car companies and ancillary facilities follow suit.

Despite his successes and an almost unheard of 63 percent approval rating, the race will still be tight. After all, Kentucky is a Republican stronghold. Beshear narrowly won the governor’s mansion in 2019, defeating then Gov. Matt Bevin, by 5,000 votes.

According to Medium Buying, Beshear already has $1.61 million in TV/Radio, including future reservations. Defending Bluegrass Values (which is funded by the Democratic Governor’s Assoc. supporting Beshear has $1.3 million in ads, a third PAC has $47,000 reserved. Meanwhile, the Republican Governor’s Association funded entity has $419,000 in ad buys.

Cameron is using the power of his office in the governor’s race – he continues to join federal and state lawsuits against the administration of President Joe Biden, effectively attempting to nationalize the race into a referendum on Biden.

The campaign apparatus supporting Cameron has been shifting behind the scenes since he became the GOP nominee, defeating 11 other Republicans by a wide margin. Cameron has tapped Terry Carmack, a veteran of McConnell’s decades of victories in Kentucky, as a “senior manager” in his campaign. Carmack is taking a leave of absence from his post as chief of staff to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s personal office, where he will return after the election, Politico reported. Carmack and Cameron worked together on the 2019 race for Attorney General.

Eric Hollander, who oversaw Cameron’s campaign during the primary, left his post following the primary to spearhead early presidential states on behalf of Donald Trump.

Cameron will have to walk a tight rope around Trump, who endorsed his candidacy, as the former president continues to face legal challenges, the latest a 37-count indictment unveiled on Tuesday related to 100 classified documents recovered from Trump’s Palm Beach home Mar-a-Lago last August.

A Republican polling firm says the race is tied between the two candidates 5-months from election day. Cameron has begun hosting in person rallies, as he works to refill his campaign coffers which were emptied in the Republican primary. He will also still need to name a running mate, which could help him canvass the state.

Kentuckians cast their ballots on Nov. 7, 2023.