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What does Kentucky's governor's race hold? Tuesday night's speeches offered more than a hint.

Associated Press

Kentucky Republican voters selected Attorney General Daniel Cameron to face incumbent Democratic Governor Andy Beshear Tuesday. The candidate’s victory and concession speeches offered a preview of the campaigns to come.

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and former Ambassador Kelly Craft both called on supporters to rally around the new nominee, while Cameron came out swinging against Beshear in his speech.

In keeping with his campaign style, Quarles stayed out of the fray and kept his focus on unseating the current governor.

"We must all unite. We must all come together after tonight," the commissioner said.

Craft echoed the sentiment, but added that she was surprised by the criticism of her heavily self-financed campaign from within the Republican ranks.

"I knew we would be attacked by Democrats, but I never in a million years thought that the attack would come from my opponents, to my family," Craft said. "I guess if you're a politician you're used to that, but I've always tried to believe the best in others, even when they act with hate in their hearts."

That left Cameron to pivot to a general election posture. Unlike his more muted primary attacks, the attorney general wasted no time taking Beshear to task over a number of fronts – painting a picture in stark opposition to the one reflected in Beshear’s winning remarks.

"Our workforce participation rate is lower than it's ever been. Violent crime runs rampant in our largest cities. Fentanyl is ravaging our communities. The left is trying to hijack women's sports, and our schools are on the verge of becoming breeding grounds for liberal and progressive ideas," Cameron said. "But rather than address these issues head on, this governor sits idly by."

Cameron’s speech played toward campaign themes Craft had stressed in her ads, leaning heavily into culture war battles over “woke” ideology in schools, controversies over transgender issues, and concerns about drugs flowing over the border.

In another preview of what’s to come, Cameron went further than thanking President Donald Trump for his endorsement, adding the “Trump culture of winning is alive and well in Kentucky.”


Meanwhile, Beshear listed administration accomplishments from infrastructure projects to progress on sports betting and medical marijuana, two issues he championed that were finally voted through by the GOP legislature. The governor also recalled the unprecedented challenges faced by the state in recent years, again taking time to praise the response of Kentuckians.

Promising teacher raises and universal pre-K in a second term, Beshear sought to bring Republicans into his tent.

"They're trying to pit us against each other, calling anybody who disagrees with them names, telling you it's ok to yell, even hate your fellow human being. We are so much stronger than that," the governor said. "People in Kentucky know that this isn't about right versus left. It's about getting things done. There are not Democrat or Republican bridges."

Beshear will hold a campaign kick-off in Lexington Saturday.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.