Republican gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, left, and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, right, participate in a debate hosted by League of Women Voters of Louisville and WLKY. (Screenshot from WLKY)
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and his Republican challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron clashed on abortion, education and the coronavirus in their third debate, continuing themes from their previous meetings.
In his opening statement, Cameron again said that the governor’s race is about “crazy versus normal” and tied Beshear to national Democratic figures like President Joe Biden. Cameron’s criticisms of Beshear included closing schools and churches during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we do not have to accept this crazy agenda any longer,” Cameron said. “We can have leadership that makes sure that we have good quality schools, that we keep our streets safe from crime and drugs, that we support our public school teachers, and yes, we eliminate Kentucky’s income tax.”
Beshear criticized Cameron for nationalizing the race and being overly partisan while reminding Kentuckians who led the state through hard times like the pandemic and natural disasters.
“This race is about us. It is about Kentucky,” Beshear said in his opening statement. “And to truly lead this state forward, you can’t be on team red or team blue. You have to lead team Kentucky.”
Saturday’s debate was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Louisville and TV station WLKY. Questions included a range of topics, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and crime
During a couple tense moments, Beshear directly asked Cameron to answer questions about abortion and school voucher programs. Cameron said last month that he would sign legislation adding exceptions in cases of rape and incest to Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban if the General Assembly passed it. However, he has not directly said if he personally supports those exceptions and continues to call himself the “pro-life candidate.”
“I’ll tell you what, I got a few seconds left. So, General Cameron, will you look at the camera and say, ‘I support exceptions for rape and incest?’” Beshear said Saturday as part of a rebuttal to Cameron.
“I’ve already said that I will sign the exceptions if they are brought to my desk,” Cameron responded. “At the end of the day, this governor wants more abortions. There is no difference between him and Joe Biden on this issue.”
Beshear also claimed during the debate that Cameron’s education plan which he calls a “Catch-Up Plan,” includes support for school vouchers to allow public school funds to follow students who attend private schools, but it does not. Cameron, however, has gained support from “school choice” groups.
Both candidates were asked about their position on school vouchers Saturday.
Beshear, who had the first opportunity to answer, said he opposes them and believes they “would defund our public education system in devastating ways.”
In his answer, Cameron brought up his family ties to educators and promised to support public education in his first budget, but did not answer whether he would support school vouchers if he becomes governor.
In his rebuttal, Beshear asked Cameron directly: “Do you support vouchers that take money from public education and send them to private schools?”
Both candidates were cut off by a moderator before going to the next question, but Cameron pushed back at Beshear on his support for public schools, saying he “shut our schools down for nearly two years.”
During Saturday’s debate, both candidates were asked if the state should have an ongoing plan for a future pandemic, like the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, as well as what they thought were successes and failures in the response to the coronavirus.
Cameron, who answered the question first, criticized Beshear for closing schools, businesses and churches during the pandemic. He has made similar comments on the campaign trail and in press conferences.
“What Andy Beshear did was wrong. I will respect your constitutional rights. I will look out for our most vulnerable populations,” Cameron said. “But at the end of the day, I will make sure that we respect you as a citizen and your constitutional rights.”
Beshear called the pandemic “the challenge of our lifetime” and said it killed 18,000 Kentuckians. He also praised health care workers who worked during the pandemic and added that it was “a slap in the face of the heroism that they showed” for Cameron to refuse “to act like this pandemic was as deadly as it was.”
“I made decisions to save lives,” Beshear said. “It’s clear this attorney general would have played politics. That would have caused more death, more destruction. I’d rather save lives than win reelection.”
Both candidates also discussed eliminating Kentucky’s income tax.Cameron has often voiced support for completely doing away with the state income tax and vowed again Saturday to “be the governor who eliminates Kentucky’s income tax.”
The attorney general criticized Beshear for vetoing legislation in 2022 that would have lowered Kentucky’s income tax.
In response, Beshear said the General Assembly created guardrails to gradually lower the income tax based on indicators of the state’s fiscal health, but “Daniel Cameron wants to take the train off the track.” The governor said a similar plan in Kansas, which he referenced in his 2022 veto, was later reversed because of strains on that state’s economy.
Beshear and Cameron addressed crime Saturday and were asked about how they would particularly make Louisville, Kentucky’s largest city, safer.
Cameron referred to his previously released public safety plan, and emphasized his support for adding a Kentucky State Police post in Louisville. He also criticized Beshear for commuting the sentences of nearly 2,000 inmates during the coronavirus pandemic. The criteria for the people who were released included being medically vulnerable, near the end of the sentences and not having been n convicted of violent or sexual offenses.
Beshear said he was surprised Cameron “just criticized me for following Donald Trump” — the former Republican president who endorsed Cameron — before highlighting pay raises for state troopers during his administration, as well as a lower recidivism rate.
The next gubernatorial debate is Monday, hosted by KET, followed by the last debate on Tuesday, hosted by WKYT.
Beshear’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, and Cameron’s running mate, state Sen. Robby Mills, will face each other in a KET debate on Oct. 30.
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