Cameron still mulling potential running mate as GOP talks unity

With first Democratic campaign ads out, Cameron defends record while criticizing Beshear

By: - May 19, 2023 4:49 pm

Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the Republican nominee for governor, speaks at a press conference with other statewide GOP candidates. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)

FRANKFORT — Daniel Cameron, who won about 48% of the votes during a heated Republican gubernatorial primary, told reporters Friday that he is still mulling who will be his future running mate. 

Cameron, leading a slate of Republican nominees for statewide offices, appeared with the group at the party’s headquarters in Frankfort. 

“Starting the process of making a judgment about who that individual will be,” the current attorney general said. 

State law now allows candidates for governor to designate their lieutenant governor pick by the second Tuesday in August. For the 2023 election cycle, that date is Aug. 8. 

Some have suggested that another Republican primary gubernatorial candidate, Ryan Quarles, could be a worthy pick for Cameron. The agriculture commissioner received about 22% of the vote, unofficial election results show. He came in second Tuesday night. 

Quarles’ campaign was largely focused on building connections with rural Kentuckians and local officials. His endorsements included more than 230 from elected Republicans across the state. 

Quarles told reporters Tuesday evening after the results came in that Cameron had not asked him to be his running mate

Stephen Voss, a political science professor from the University of Kentucky, said the top criteria for a good running mate is that they address something the candidate doesn’t have.

“The problem is figuring out which traits or variables you want to counterbalance, right?” he said. “So, the candidate who would help counterbalance in terms of policy might be different from the candidate who helps counterbalance in terms of gender.” 

Voters do not typically vote for the running mate, but for the top of the ticket, making the electoral impact small, said Scott Jennings, a conservative commentator who has worked in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s past campaigns. In Kentucky, lieutenant governors typically have few duties as well, but they could potentially step into the governor’s role. 

“If I were choosing a running mate, I would choose someone who I was comfortable that (they) could step in and execute the duties of the office of governor. And if they could help me politically a little bit on the margins, that’s a bonus,” Jennings said. “But I think what you’re looking for here is somebody that you trust, that shares your vision and that, if something happens, you can have a seamless transition.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is Cameron’s general election opponent, has indicated that he will run again with Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. 

As primary dust settles, attacks begin to fly

A pro-Beshear PAC, backed by the Democratic Governors Association, has already launched a website called, which criticizes Cameron on a number of issues, chiefly among them not appointing a special prosecutor to review pardons issued by former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. 

Another DGA PAC, Defending Bluegrass Values, has placed a TV ad against Cameron on the same issue. 

In his final days in office, Bevin issued a flurry of pardons and commuted sentences of convicted criminals, drawing criticism in Frankfort and from victims’ families. Cameron later asked the FBI to investigate the pardons. 

When asked about a response from reporters, Cameron turned to criticize Beshear for commuting the sentences of more than 1,000 prisoners early in the coronavirus pandemic and cited a report that found about a third of them had since been charged with a new felony. The report did not indicate the outcomes of those charges, the Courier Journal reported.

“At the end of the day, this race is going to be about me and Andy Beshear, and Andy Beshear is the ‘catch-and-release candidate,’” Cameron said. 

Republican slate displays unity

Cameron appeared with other Republican nominees, including Secretary of State Michael Adams, who is running for re-election, and Treasurer Allison Ball, who is running for auditor. They all talked about the unity of Kentucky Republicans. The primary gubernatorial race got a bit heated with attack ads and debate sparring. 

Also joining them were Republican House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers, who said internal polling shows a generic Republican beating Beshear in a hypothetical general election. 

In January, independent polling firm Mason-Dixon showed Beshear winning against Cameron by nine percentage points. The primary election saw a limited number of public polls. 

“When you look at a little over six months, you’re going to see everyone behind me being the people who are up the streets, occupying offices,” Stivers said. 

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.