He may have burned too bright.
In the deeply red state, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear beat back Cameron on Tuesday to retain the Governor’s mansion and step on the narrative that voters are turning away from Democratic policies. In fact, the race wasn’t even that close.
Beshear had about 53 percent of the vote compared to 47 percent for Cameron, with 83 percent reporting when CNN, NBC and Politico called the race before 9 p.m.
Beshear ran on issues important to Kentucky voters—like local infrastructure projects, his response to natural disasters during his tenure as governor, and his handling of COVID—while painting Cameron as an extremist on abortion.
In one notable campaign ad for Beshear, a young woman said she was repeatedly raped by her stepfather when she was 12.
“Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it’s like to stand in my shoes,” the young woman said. “This is to you, Daniel Cameron. To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable. I’m speaking out because women and girls need to have options. Daniel Cameron would give us none.”
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Kentucky’s state government passed an abortion-ban after the sixth week of pregnancy. And Cameron, as the state’s AG, defended the law multiple times. That may have ultimately been Cameron’s death knell.
Voters rejected a starkly similar abortion proposal in a ballot measure just a year ago, with the state legislature subsequently passing the GOP bill restricting abortion and overriding Beshear’s veto.
Beshear consistently hit Cameron on abortion. And as much as Cameron tried to make the race a referendum on President Joe Biden—Biden lost Kentucky in 2020 by 25 points and remains deeply unpopular there—Beshear seemed to avoid too strong a connection to Biden.
While there may be lessons that some Democrats would like to draw from Beshear’s success, his win might be special to Kentucky.
For one, Beshear is political royalty in Kentucky. His father was governor of Kentucky from 2007 to 2015. For another, Cameron came with his own luggage cart of political baggage.
Cameron was plagued by scandals in Kentucky—a number of which were exposed by The Daily Beast.
Cameron took cash from a recovery center he was investigating, and then offered a tortured defense of the scandal. There was also a sexual harassment scandal in the Attorney General’s office, a scandal over Cameron being a “ghost” in the AG’s office, and a scandal over Cameron oddly pushing for a psychedelic drug to treat opioid abuse.
Still, it’s difficult to not draw some conclusions from Beshear’s victory. He won in 2019, against unpopular Republican governor Matt Bevin, by just under 6,000 votes. And as the GOP tries to brand “Bidenomics” as a toxic failure—even as the U.S. economy remains strong and inflation comes down without drastic increases to the unemployment rate—it’s conspicuous that voters weren’t so repelled that they couldn’t re-elect their Democratic governor. Even in Kentucky.