Republican Senator Whitney Westerfield abruptly dropped his campaign for the state’s top law enforcement post Friday, giving a boost to a candidate with close ties to Senator Mitch McConnell. But the first-time political hopeful won't go unchallenged in the GOP primary.
Westerfield lost a tight race to current Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear by less than half a percentage point in 2015, and he’s appeared primed for a rematch ever since. So it came as no surprise when the Crofton Republican jumped into the 2019 contest for the office more than two years ahead of the election.
But just days before Tuesday's filing deadline, the senator shuffled the deck – exiting the race and leaving Daniel Cameron, a former legal counsel to McConnell, better positioned to clinch the GOP nomination.
"I have been overwhelmed by the support I received during this campaign," the senator wrote in a statement, "but this decision will hopefully give another qualified candidate the opportunity to run their campaign as it should be run."
A second twist arrived just hours later, however, when Westerfield’s Senate colleague, Wil Schroder, announced his candidacy. In a video on Twitter, Schroder stressed the importance of experience.
"It is crucial that Kentucky's next attorney general be someone that has prosecutorial experience," the Wilder Republican said. "This position is way too important for on-the-job training. With Senator Whitney Westerfield, my friend, withdrawing today, I'm the only candidate who has a combinaton of prosecutorial experience and a conservative record."
Explaining his withdrawal, Westerfield cited a tough primary challenge and a desire to spend more time with family, telling the Associated Press the McConnell team is throwing its weight behind Cameron.
On the Democratic side, former Attorney General Greg Stumbo is mounting a bid to reclaim the post he held from 2004 to 2008.