Crime becomes flash point in Kentucky GOP race for Governor

Dozens of law enforcement officials in Kentucky came to Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s aid on Tuesday, pushing back against a new attack aimed at his record on combating crime as the contest for the Republican gubernatorial nomination becomes increasingly testy.

In a joint statement, the group of sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors said Cameron has taken “decisive action to improve public safety” during his term as Attorney General.

The statement was in response to the latest anti-Cameron ad from a group supporting Kelly Craft’s bid to become the Republican nominee for Governor. The commercial referred to Cameron as Kentucky’s “soft-on-crime teddy bear” — continuing a theme since its initial commercial.

The back-and-forth reflects an increasingly combative contest between the Craft and Cameron campaigns leading up to the May primary. Twelve candidates are competing for the GOP nomination for Governor. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking reelection, in a campaign drawing national attention to see if the popular incumbent can overcome his party’s struggles in the Republican-trending state.

The latest ad links Cameron to past efforts by some within his own party to revamp the criminal justice system — including decreased sentences for some drug offenses — to reduce prison overcrowding.

The ad concludes by asking “who would keep your family safe? A strong Kentucky conservative governor or career politician Daniel Cameron — Kentucky’s soft-on-crime teddy bear?” Cameron is in his first term as attorney general. Craft — a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — has made fighting the state’s deadly drug epidemic a cornerstone of her campaign.

The pro-Craft group’s earlier ad portrayed Cameron as an “establishment teddy bear” who hasn’t been tough enough in challenging President Joe Biden’s border policies. Cameron pushed back then by pointing to lawsuits he joined as Attorney General to try to block Biden policies.

In its response to the latest attack, Cameron’s campaign on Tuesday turned to the group of law enforcement officials and local prosecutors supporting his bid for governor.

“Daniel understands the law enforcement community, and he knows that what we need is real leadership that’s born out of actions taken, not tough talk in a 30-second ad,” the group said in the statement released by Cameron’s campaign. “Daniel’s taken decisive action to improve public safety in Kentucky since his first day in office.”

They pointed to Cameron’s efforts to combat human trafficking, raise awareness about the “dangerous poison of fentanyl” and to fight child abuse. They pointed to his role in securing massive settlements with companies for roles in the opioid addiction crisis. The state’s legal fight against drug abuse dates back to when Beshear filed numerous lawsuits during his tenure as Kentucky’s Attorney General.

The ads signal that Craft supporters see Cameron as her biggest rival for the GOP nomination. Craft and Cameron also sparred recently over coal policy — an issue that resonates in this coal-producing state.

Other GOP contenders for governor include state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, state Auditor Mike Harmon and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.

Quarles and other candidates have stayed out of the fray. Quarles recently released a tax plan that he said includes “final repeal” of the inheritance tax. Kentucky is one of six states in the nation that still has an inheritance tax, he said.

“We need to end the Death Tax to keep money in the hands of families who will carry on the legacies of their loved ones,” Quarles said in a recent op-ed. “In my first year as governor, I will urge the General Assembly to abolish Kentucky’s Death Tax once and for all. Imagine losing a family-owned business due to state taxes.”


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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