Kentucky Democrat Defeats Anti-Abortion Challenger in Governor’s Race

Throughout the campaign, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) repeatedly challenged Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) on his anti-abortion stance in this ruby-red state.

Kentucky Democrat Defeats Anti-Abortion Challenger in Governor’s Race
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), left, and Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R). Photo:Getty Images

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has won re-election against challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R), per NBC News, in a race where abortion was surprisingly prominent. This victory won’t restore abortion rights in the state, but it’s a win not to have someone who is so vehemently opposed to abortion in the governor’s mansion.

Beshear—son of former Gov. Steve Beshear (D)—beat incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in 2019 by four-tenths of a point, or about 5,000 votes. This time, in what was the most expensive gubernatorial race in state history, his margin of victory was a little under 5 points with 74% of the vote in. (This is a state that President Donald Trump won in 2020 by 26 points.)

An abortion trigger ban took effect in Kentucky shortly after the fall of Roe v. Wade, with zero exceptions for rape or incest—and Cameron had long defended that ban as written. In April 2023, he said, “I’m not going to waver in my position on this and we’re going to continue to defend the law as is.” The Beshear campaign hit Cameron repeatedly for his stance on exceptions, and his long anti-abortion record.

In September, Beshear’s campaign released an ad with a prosecutor talking about young rape survivors being forced to give birth due to the state’s abortion ban. And then, in what was a purely coincidental move, I’m sure, Cameron—who was trailing in the polls—flip-flopped. He soon claimed in a radio interview that, if elected, and if the legislature passed a bill adding exceptions, he would sign it. Alex Floyd, a spokesperson for the Beshear campaign, noted the timing of the comment in a statement to the Associated Press. “Either recent polling numbers have changed Cameron’s core beliefs, or he is lying to Kentuckians now that he is seven weeks from an election,” he said.

Days after that flip-flop, the Beshear campaign released another ad highlighting Cameron’s long-held position opposing the exceptions. The statewide TV ad featured Hadley Duvall, a 21-year-old who said on camera that her stepfather raped her at age 12. (She became pregnant and later miscarried.) Duvall then addressed the GOP nominee directly: “This is to you, Daniel Cameron. To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable,” she said. “I’m speaking out because women and girls need to have options. Daniel Cameron would give us none.”

Cameron addressed the ad during a TV interview and said he believes he has “a responsibility to protect the unborn” and that the correct thing to do in these situations is to arrest rapists.

Beshear had led in polling by as much as 16 points in early October, but that narrowed dramatically in a poll taken at the end of the month where the two were tied at 47% each, with 4% undecided. But in that same poll, 55% of voters opposed the state’s current abortion ban that lacks exceptions for rape or incest.

In 2022, Kentucky voters defeated an anti-abortion ballot measure that would have amended the state Constitution to say that nothing in the document can be construed to protect abortion rights. The pro-choice position on Amendment 2 was to vote “no” and it failed by a vote of 52.3% to 47.7%, or nearly five points.

The race could also have implications when it comes to the ailing Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who froze up in two separate incidents this summer. If McConnell were to resign from his seat or pass away while in office, there’s been speculation that Beshear would flout a 2021 law backed by McConnell himself that ties the governor’s hands when any vacancy arises by requiring an appointment of the same party. The thinking went that Beshear could appoint a Democrat and fight the law in court. But if Cameron had won, McConnell could retire knowing a Republican would definitely take his place. Now that potential plan is up in the air.

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