Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a press conference at the Kentucky state Capitol in Frankfort, on Jan. 19, 2023. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Ryan C. Hermens | Lexington Herald-leader | Getty Images
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, is fighting for a second term in office Tuesday against Republican challenger Daniel Cameron, the state attorney general, who is trying to rally conservative voters to turn out in opposition to Beshear’s views on abortion and LGBTQ rights.
Beshear has a 60% approval rating among Kentucky voters, despite governing as a Democrat in a socially conservative state where voters overwhelmingly backed former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, according to a recent Morning Consult poll.
Beshear, 45, has led Trump-backed Cameron, 37, for most the campaign, but the latest polling showed the candidates in a dead heat.
Cameron, a protégé of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is Kentucky’s first African American attorney general and would become the commonwealth’s first Black governor if he defeats Beshear.
Beshear has sought to convince conservative voters that he governs above partisan politics. He responded swiftly to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and flooding in eastern Kentucky in 2022.
The governor has also touted Kentucky’s economic performance, with the state recording its lowest unemployment rate in history last year, though joblessness has ticked up slightly since then.
Cameron has attacked Beshear for supporting abortion and LGBTQ rights, betting that the governor’s positions are out of synch with Kentucky voters. Beshear has stood his ground on those issues, putting Cameron on the defensive when it comes to abortion.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is running for reelection, and Republican nominee and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, shake hands before the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerceís Power in Partnership Luncheon and Gubernatorial Forum at the Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center in Paducah, Kentucky, on Oct. 12, 2023.
Ryan C. Hermens | Tribune News Service | Getty Images
Kentucky’s Republican-dominated legislature had a trigger law on the books that banned abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. The state’s stringent ban only allows abortion when the mother’s life is in danger or she is at risk of a disabling injury.
Beshear slammed the ban as “extreme” and “absolutely wrong” in a televised debate with Cameron in October, emphasizing that the law does not provide exceptions for rape and incest.
“My opponent’s position would give a rapist more rights than their victim,” Beshear said. “We need to change this law.”
Cameron hailed the ban when it went into effect and the attorney general has defended the law in state courts. As the election approached, Cameron softened his position on amending the law to include rape and incest exceptions.
“If the legislature were to give me a bill with exemptions in it, I would certainly sign it,” Cameron said during the debate, while trying to paint Beshear as a supporter of abortion rights and positioning himself as the anti-abortion candidate.
Cameron has also gone after Beshear, the most pro-LGBTQ governor in Kentucky state history, for vetoing bills that target transgender individuals.
Beshear vetoed legislation last year that banned transgender girls and women from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams in the sixth grade through college. In March, the governor vetoed another bill that banned gender-affirming care for children.
“My faith teaches me that all children are the children of God,” Beshear wrote in his March veto message, warning that banning gender-affirming care would endanger kids.
Improving access to gender-affirming care is an important means of improving health outcomes for the transgender population,” Beshear wrote.
The Republican-dominated legislature later overrode both of Beshear’s vetoes.
Don’t miss these stories from CNBC PRO: