An attorney general with close ties to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has entered the 2023 gubernatorial race, signaling Republicans may attempt to reclaim the governorship by running more traditional candidates than the Trump-backed firebrand who lost the 2019 contest.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R), a former McConnell protege, filed a statement of spending intent with the state's Registry of Election Finance on Wednesday, indicating the spending would be as a candidate in the 2023 race. The declaration marks the entry of a candidate poised to get backing from the traditional wing of the GOP, a marked departure from former Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who lost to Gov. Andy Beshear (D) in 2019 despite Kentucky's strong Republican tilt.
"All of us conservatives feel a weight of responsibility right now. That's why I decided to run for governor," Cameron said in an ad announcing his candidacy, adding that Beshear is "not uniting Kentucky."
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Cameron, who became Kentucky's first black attorney general after he was elected in 2019, still offers some appeal to the Trump wing of the party. He delivered a highly praised speech on behalf of the then-president at the 2020 Republican National Convention.
The attorney general alluded to the "differences" between Donald Trump and McConnell when asked about his ability to earn support from both factions.
"There are always differences in American politics. History shows that what matters is what you are able to accomplish despite those differences," he told the Washington Examiner.
Cameron joins Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and state Auditor Mike Harmon in the primary race.
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Beshear is seeking reelection and has already raised more than $2 million for his campaign. His approval rating in Kentucky is at 59%, according to an April poll, making him the most popular Democratic governor in the United States, according to the Courier Journal.