LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron won the Republican primary for governor Tuesday, becoming the first major-party Black nominee for governor in the state's history and setting up a November showdown with Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear.
Cameron, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, claimed a convincing victory over a 12-candidate field that included Kelly Craft, who served as United Nations ambassador in the Trump administration, and state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. Beshear easily beat two Democratic challengers in his own primary.
Cameron, the state's first Black attorney general, would be the state's first Black governor if elected.
"To anyone who looks like me, know that you can achieve anything," Cameron told his supporters.
The race now shifts to the general election, which will be one of November's most closely watched contests and could provide clues heading into next year's presidential race. Beshear, a popular Democratic governor, will face a tough reelection bid in a Republican-dominated state after a first term marked by a series of tragedies -- the covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters and a mass shooting that killed one of his closest friends.
Beshear touted Tuesday his stewardship of Kentucky's economy -- pointing to record economic development successes -- in setting the stage for his fall reelection campaign. And he blasted the tone of the GOP gubernatorial primary after taking hits for months from the Republican candidates.
"Right now somewhere in America, there is a CEO deciding where to move their business and they're considering Kentucky," Beshear told a gathering of supporters. "Let me ask you: Is seeing people talk down our state and our economy, insult our people and stoke divisions going to help that next company choose Kentucky? Of course not."
Turnout was light in many locations as rain fell across much of the state during part of the day, the secretary of state's office said. Storm warnings were issued in some areas, but there were no reports of voting disruptions. Election officials hoped for an upswing in turnout after the storms passed.
Cameron succeeded Beshear in the attorney general's office, and the Republican turned the tables on Beshear, mounting numerous legal challenges against state and national Democratic policies that endeared him to conservatives.
Cameron led the successful challenge that essentially halted the governor's covid-era restrictions. Beshear says that his actions saved lives and that he leaned heavily on guidance from Trump's coronavirus task force.
In addition to Craft and Quarles, Cameron also defeated state Auditor Mike Harmon and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, among others. But it was the combative rivalry between Cameron and Craft that dominated the primary campaign.
Cameron endured an advertising blitz by Craft's campaign -- backed by her family's fortune -- and an outside group supporting her campaign. A pro-Cameron group swung back with attacks against Craft, who nabbed a last-minute endorsement from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The gubernatorial campaign topped primary races for other constitutional offices in Kentucky.
Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, who pushed successfully for expanded voter access, won his primary against two candidates. He faces Democrat Charles Wheatley in November in his reelection bid.
Other primary winners included Republican Allison Ball, who is running for state auditor after two terms as state treasurer, and now will face Democrat Kimberley Reeder, who ran unopposed. Garrard County Attorney Mark Metcalf won the GOP primary for state treasurer and faces Democrat Michael Bowman in the general election.