Andy Beshear is staying in the governor’s mansion.
The Democratic governor has defeated Republican Daniel Cameron, Kentucky’s attorney general, in his bid for reelection. The Associated Press called the race at 8:57 p.m. ET.
Beshear, 46, retained a high approval rating throughout his first term leading the conservative state, and outpaced Cameron by double digits for much of the race. Those polls tightened considerably as Tuesday’s election neared, but Cameron was never able to overtake the sitting governor — who presided over record-low unemployment last year and earned praise for his handling of the pandemic.
Cameron sought to draw a contrast with his one-time law firm colleague on social issues, criticizing Beshear for his veto of a bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for minors, and the governor’s support for reproductive rights. In the end, neither those issues — nor the support of former President Donald Trump, who won the state handily in both 2016 and 2020, or Sen. Mitch McConnell, Cameron’s political mentor — was enough to push him over the edge.
Beyond a referendum on Beshear’s first term in office, the race was widely seen as a proxy for Kentucky voters’ views on abortion. One year ago, Kentuckians rejected a proposal that would have amended the state constitution to outlaw abortion. The practice remains illegal, however, thanks in part to Cameron, who defended Kentucky’s near-total ban abortion in court this year. The ban, which went into effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, includes no exceptions for rape or incest.
While campaigning for governor, Cameron signaled he would work to further restrict reproductive rights if elected. He drew particular criticism for asserting, on a candidate survey, that he would “actively support” legislation that would make it a criminal offense “to perform, to assist with, or to pay for an abortion.” The same survey defined “abortion” in a separate question as including the emergency contraceptive Plan B and three other types of birth control: Norplant, Depo Provera, and the pill. Cameron was forced to issue a statement clarifying that he did not support criminalizing birth control in addition to abortion.
Beshear, meanwhile, has worked to expand reproductive freedom in Kentucky. But his decision to go after Cameron for his position on abortion in the conservative state surprised some political observers. One particularly memorable ad — which came to define the stakes of the race between Beshear and Cameron — featured a woman named Hadley Duvall, who was raped by her stepfather as a preteen. “This is to you, Daniel Cameron,” Duvall says, addressing the camera directly. “To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather, who raped her, is unthinkable. I’m speaking out because women and girls need to have options. Daniel Cameron would give us none.”
Beshear’s win in the Republican stronghold is good news for Democrats amid heightened anxiety about the party’s prospects in 2024, but it may not be indicative of a broader trend: Republicans in Kentucky soundly defeated their Democratic rivals for attorney general and secretary of state.