Incumbent Andy Beshear (D) and Daniel Cameron (R) are running in the Nov. 7, 2023, Kentucky gubernatorial election. The primary was May 16, 2023. The filing deadline was Jan. 6, 2023.
According to CNN’s Eric Bradner, “The race between Beshear and Cameron, much like Virginia’s state legislative races this fall, carries significant implications for 2024’s elections, as both parties test-drive messages they’ll seek to use across the map next year and Democrats look for lessons about which messages connect with voters in increasingly red states.”
“The race will test whether a Democratic incumbent can survive in a deep-red state where his party’s voter registration advantage has been erased in recent years and the political environment is increasingly dominated by national themes,” Bradner wrote.
“[Cameron] is seen as a rising star in GOP politics and made history as the first Black candidate to become a major party’s nominee in a Kentucky gubernatorial race,” wrote Newsweek’s Andrew Stanton. “Meanwhile, Beshear remains one of the most popular governors across the United States,” he added.
Beshear was first elected in 2019 when he defeated incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) 49.2% to 48.8%. He is the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear (2007-2015) and served as attorney general from 2015 to 2019.
Beshear has campaigned on his economic record and his administration’s handling of a number of crises that took place during his tenure, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of natural disasters that hit the state. In a campaign ad, Beshear said, “We’ve been through a lot these past four years, and some days have been tougher than others, but I will always show up to help the people of Kentucky. … Bringing thousands of good paying jobs to the commonwealth, 46 thousand more jobs than before the pandemic; clean drinking water to folks who’ve been overlooked and underserved; and making sure communities across Kentucky have what they need to recover from natural disasters.”
Cameron has served as attorney general since 2019 when he defeated Gregory Stumbo (D) 58% to 42%. The state’s first Black attorney general and the first Republican elected to the office since 1943, Cameron previously worked as a law clerk and as legal counsel to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell (R).
Cameron has criticized Beshear’s policies during the COVID-19 pandemic and has highlighted lawsuits he brought against the Beshear and Biden administrations in his capacity as attorney general. Cameron’s campaign website says he “stood up for individual liberty by successfully stopping the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for private businesses … successfully defended multiple laws passed by the General Assembly that limited Governor Beshear’s overreaching powers during a national pandemic … defended Kentucky’s pro-life laws … [and] stood with the General Assembly in support of a bill to protect women’s sports and promised to defend the law if it was challenged in court.”
The lieutenant governor is also up for election. In Kentucky, gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates run as a ticket. Beshear named current Attorney General Jacqueline Coleman (D) as his running-mate. Cameron has until Aug. 8 to designate his.
The general election outcome will determine the state’s trifecta status until at least 2024. The state currently has a divided government: Democrats control the governorship, and Republicans control both legislative chambers. The Cook Political Report and Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the general election Lean Democratic, while Inside Elections rates the election a Toss up.
Kentucky—alongside Kansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina—is one of four states with a Democratic governor that President Donald Trump (R) won in 2020. That year, Trump defeated Joe Biden (D) 62% to 36% in the state. The last Democratic presidential nominee to carry Kentucky was former President Bill Clinton in 1996.
At the state level, Democratic governors have led Kentucky for 64 of the past 76 years. The state has elected three Republican governors since World War II, each serving single terms from 1967 to 1971, 2003 to 2007, and 2015 to 2019.