Andy Beshear, left, and Daniel Cameron rallied with supporters hours before Election Day. (Kentucky Lantern photos by McKenna Horsley and Liam Niemeyer)
With hours left to make their cases to voters, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron spent Monday crisscrossing Kentucky and rallying their supporters to get out and vote.
Tuesday polls will open at 6 a.m. and voters will decide which candidate will lead the commonwealth for the next four years.
Beshear and Cameron have met in five debates and saturated the airwaves with advertising. Counting all the spending by the two campaigns and outside groups, $65 million will be expended wooing voters in this governor’s race. The outcome is expected to be close, increasing the chances of an automatic recount thanks to a recent change in state law. And, as one of only three governor’s races this year, it will be closely watched outside Kentucky for signs of voters’ mood heading toward next year’s presidential and congressional races.
On Monday, Beshear held rallies with voters in Lexington, Morehead, Prestonsburg and Pikeville, before ending the day in Louisville.
Cameron appeared at press conferences in Fort Wright, Lexington and Louisville before hosting an evening rally in his hometown of Elizabethtown. He then hopped on a “tele-rally” with former President Donald Trump, in which Trump, who has endorsed Cameron, tied Beshear to President Joe Biden. The governor is popular in Kentucky; the president is not.
Beshear ended Monday with a crowd packed inside Mile Wide Brewing on Barret Avenue in Kentucky’s largest city. In 2019, Beshear won Jefferson County by a nearly 100,000-vote margin. In his stump speech, he emphasized his campaign’s consistent messaging — that his efforts to bring clean drinking water, new jobs and high speed internet to Kentuckians are not partisan issues.
“Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent, there is a place for you in this campaign and in this administration,” Beshear said to the crowd. “Our job isn’t to move a state to the right or the left but to move it forward for every single family.”
In the final hours of his campaign, Cameron put a spotlight on his Hardin County roots. Speaking before a crowd of supporters Monday evening at an event hall near downtown Elizabethtown, he mentioned the church he attended in town, his family’s coffee shop where he worked growing up and his high school football aspirations before turning to his stances on social issues, such as preventing transgender women from playing on female sports teams.
“To end this campaign in the place where I was raised here in Hardin County, here in E-town amongst so many friends, folks that have supported not only me but my family,” Cameron said. “I am so honored to be here amongst all of you all. This touches my heart.”
Cameron pivoted to hit on several of his campaign’s themes attacking the “far-left” and his Democratic opponent over various culture war issues, including transgender rights, claiming his Democratic opponent refused “to protect women’s sports.” Cameron also strongly rebuked Beshear’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He painted his campaign in broad strokes, invoking his Christian faith, and saying he wanted to preserve “ideals that have propelled this nation forward.” He also promised to eliminate the state income tax and fight crime.
“Those ideals being faith, family and community. That is what is at stake tomorrow,” Cameron said. “This race is about making sure that at the end of tomorrow night, we are in a position for decades to come to say that this commonwealth is a shining city on a hill, a model and an example for the rest of the nation to follow.”
Cameron didn’t mention former president Donald Trump in his closing speech in Elizabethtown even though he was set to speak with Trump on a phone conference call “tele-rally”at 9 p.m. The campaign had distributed a phone number to dial into the call with Trump and Cameron.
Cameron during the about 10-minute conference call with Trump said the former president was “going to take the fight to Joe Biden in 2024” and introduced Trump as the “next president of the United States.”
Trump during the call described Beshear as a “Joe Biden stooge” and claimed the Democratic governor wanted “big, strong hulking men to bruise and brutalize Kentucky female athletes on the playing field while stealing all of their trophies for themselves.”
When the GOP-controlled Kentucky legislature overrode a veto from Beshear to pass a ban in 2022 on transgender girls and women playing on sports teams matching their gender identity, the only example of that happening in the state was a middle school transgender girl who wanted to play on her field hockey team. The legislation was sponsored by Cameron’s running mate, state Sen. Robby Mills.
Also during the call, Trump praised Cameron for suing “crooked Joe Biden, I guess, at a record level. And he’s left dozens and dozens of successful decisions scattered all over the state.”
The former president, who on Monday testified as the defendant in a business fraud trial in New York, said: “A vote for Daniel Cameron is a vote for Trump and it’s a vote against Biden and it’s a vote to save the state of Kentucky and the great Commonwealth of Kentucky from Beshear. Beshear is an absolute disaster.”
When asked about Trump’s tele-rally, Beshear told reporters that Kentucky’s gubernatorial election “isn’t about who’s in the White House. It’s about what’s going on in the home of our Kentucky families.” The governor added that voters are concerned about issues like job creation and healthcare for their families.
“They want to know who will work every single day to create a better job for them. That’s what this race is about,” Beshear said. “I think it’s a clear choice, and I think we’re gonna be victorious tomorrow night.”
Beshear was joined at his final campaign event by Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg and Democratic candidates who will also be on tomorrow’s ballot.
“When you are breaking record after record after record and win after win, you do not change the coach,” Greenberg said, paraphrasing a line Beshear has used before. “You keep on playing with that team to continue with the amazing momentum.”
The governor touted his administration’s record on economic development, highlighted key infrastructure and referred to his leadership of the state through the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters. As he spoke, the crowd cheered and waved signs.
“We have been through a lot together. A pandemic, tornadoes, flooding, wind storms, ice storms,” Beshear told the crowd. “Yet tonight, here I stand more enthusiastic, optimistic and energized about our future than at any time in my lifetime.”
In Elizabethtown, among theCameron supporters was Nate Fowler, 66, who went to church with Cameron and his family and also had visited Cameron’s family coffee shop in the past. Fowler has called Hardin County home for more than 30 years and says he knew Cameron when he was “very small.”
“We know where his heart is and where his beliefs are, and that has never wavered. And we see in his political career up to this point that he’s never wavered,” Fowler said. “And we know when he becomes a governor that’ll stand exactly as it is.”
Fowler believes the governor’s race will be tight given Beshear has a “strong following” but added that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“That means that people are getting out and voting,” Fowler said. “That’s what this country is built on.”
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