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Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will defeat Republican Daniel Cameron to win a second term in the highly watched race for Kentucky governor, Decision Desk HQ projects.
Abortion and Cameron’s anti-abortion record became a key issue in the race between the two men — even though the governor’s office has little power over abortion policy. Kentucky has a total abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest in place, though voters last year rejected a measure that would have established there is no right to abortion in the state constitution.
Cameron, currently the state attorney general, built his political career in part on his anti-abortion bonafides. In office, Cameron has signed onto numerous briefs supporting abortion restrictions in other states. This year, he supported legal efforts to overturn the Food & Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, a drug commonly used in medication abortions, and joined other Republican attorneys general in opposing the Biden administration’s efforts to protect the health information of patients who travel out of their states for abortions, both of which became fodder for his opponents.
On the campaign trail, Cameron said he would cultivate a “culture of life” in the state and defended the abortion ban in its current form, without exceptions, until the final weeks of the campaign.
Both the Beshear campaign and outside groups ran television and digital ads attacking Cameron over his stance on abortion, especially his lack of support for exceptions to the state’s ban. The Beshear campaign’s ads featured a county prosecutor and a young woman who was raped as a child emphasizing Cameron’s lack of support for rape exceptions.
Defending Bluegrass Values, a PAC affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, also ran multiple ads hitting Cameron as “extreme” on abortion, including one featuring a couple who had to end a non-viable pregnancy. Cameron criticized the ads as “shameful.”
Toward the end of his campaign, Cameron attempted to moderate his stance on exceptions. In a mid-September radio interview, he said he would sign a bill adding exceptions to the state’s ban if the state legislature passed it and sent it to his desk. He later backtracked and said he’d only add exceptions if a court mandated it, before reversing course again and saying he’d sign a bill adding exceptions.
Other than abortion, the Kentucky governor’s race focused on the economy, education and health care. Cameron, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, sought to tie Beshear to President Joe Biden, who is unpopular nationally and in Kentucky. Cameron also campaigned on opposing transgender rights during his campaign; Kentucky lawmakers have overridden Beshear’s vetoes on bills banning gender-affirming care for youth and a ban on transgender girls competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.
Racial justice and the killing of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman killed during a no-knock raid of her Louisville apartment in March 2020, also influenced the race. Taylor’s killing was seldom mentioned in ads and debates, but many racial justice advocates, particularly in Louisville, were motivated to defeat Cameron over his handling of her case.
As attorney general, Cameron, who is also Black, convened a grand jury that did not bring any charges against the two officers who fatally shot Taylor six times but charged a third officer with wantonly endangering Taylor’s neighbors; a jury acquitted him in 2022. Multiple grand jurors subsequently came forward to criticize Cameron, who defended his work on the case during his campaign.