Kentucky GOP gubernatorial nominee mostly steers away from Trump’s latest legal woes

Jun 13, 2023, 2:58 PM

SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Republican gubernatorial nominee Daniel Cameron stuck to his solidly conservative playbook Tuesday but steered away for the most part from former President Donald Trump’s latest legal woes.

Cameron, the state’s attorney general, didn’t mention the ex-president in a campaign speech. But when asked later by reporters, he echoed comments from other Trump defenders in raising concerns about a “weaponization of government power.”

Cameron focused his attacks on the record of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, his opponent in the November election. It came during Cameron’s latest campaign appearance in counties ringing Louisville — fast-growing areas that have shifted toward the GOP.

Cameron glossed over the former president in the speech shortly before Trump’s historic court appearance in Florida on charges accusing him of mishandling classified documents.

Instead, Cameron tried linking Beshear to Trump’s successor, Democratic President Joe Biden. Cameron also touted his anti-abortion credentials and his conservative stand on transgender issues.

Trump emerged as Cameron’s most powerful benefactor, Cameron notched a decisive victory in the May primary and thanked Trump for the endorsement in his victory speech, declaring “the Trump culture of winning is alive and well in Kentucky.”

Cameron on Tuesday promoted his Bluegrass State showdown with Beshear as “a bellwether” for national elections in 2024, when control of the presidency and Congress are up for grabs. Trump is seeking to reclaim the White House next year, but Cameron skipped over mentioning the ex-president at his campaign stop Tuesday until queried by reporters about Trump’s charges in the documents case.

Asked if it was wrong for Trump to allegedly hoard classified documents at his Florida estate, and whether it could fracture the GOP, Cameron replied his focus was on defeating Beshear.

During his session with reporters, Cameron questioned the fairness of the proceedings in light of other classified information probes concerning Democrats, including Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It raises concerns whether “there are two different justice systems,” said Cameron, the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

“Kentuckians have concerns about the weaponization of government power,” Cameron said, essentially repeating a statement he issued last week after Trump’s indictment.

Clinton was not charged for sending classified information on a private email server after FBI investigators concluded that she had not intended to break the law. The Biden investigation remains open, but no evidence has emerged to suggest he acted willfully — a core claim in the Trump indictment.

Trump’s support has loomed over Cameron’s campaign. Cameron supporters point to his ability to bridge the gulf between Trump and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell despite a growing rift between the two GOP heavyweights. Cameron previously worked as the Kentucky senator’s legal counsel.

If Beshear follows his campaign formula from 2019, he will avoid talking about Trump or dwelling on polarizing national issues that could risk further energizing his opponent’s conservative base.

Beshear has stressed his stewardship of Kentucky’s economy — pointing to record economic development during his term as governor. Last week, he touted another milestone, pointing to federal labor statistics showing Kentucky had more than 2 million residents employed.

“This is the best chance to turn our brain drain into a brain gain, make sure we never lose our talented young people to any other state ever again,” Beshear said in what is emerging as a campaign theme.

Cameron kept pounding away Tuesday on topics that could mobilize socially conservative voters, including abortion and transgender issues.

As attorney general, Cameron has defended Kentucky’s anti-abortion laws, including a near-total ban on the procedure that is being challenged in court. Touting his anti-abortion stand Tuesday, he said his vision for Kentucky would protect “the most vulnerable, that cherished asset, our unborn.”

“It’s a vision in which we make sure that those that are unborn are able to reach their God-given potential,” Cameron said.

Beshear has denounced the near-total ban as extremist, noting it lacks exceptions for rape and incest.

Meanwhile, Cameron slammed Beshear for vetoing a 2022 bill barring transgender girls and women from participating in school sports matching their gender identity. The GOP-led legislature overrode the veto. It’s an attack against Beshear that is likely to be repeated often in the coming months of the campaign.

Cameron also continued lambasting Beshear’s pandemic-era restrictions, saying the governor picked “winners and losers.”

“You tell small businesses they have to close, but you allow big business to stay open,” Cameron said.

The governor has defended his pandemic actions, saying they saved lives during a global health crisis.

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Kentucky GOP gubernatorial nominee mostly steers away from Trump’s latest legal woes