Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

In race for Kentucky governor, Cameron leads in GOP poll but Craft is catching up

Kyeland Jackson

With less than five weeks until this year’s primary election in Kentucky, the gap is tightening between the two Republican frontrunners.

A new poll released by Emerson College and Fox 56 shows Attorney General Daniel Cameron still leading the pack of Republicans vying for the chance to unseat Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear this year.

But former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft has cut into Cameron’s lead, now trailing behind him by just six percentage points.

Cameron leads Craft 30% to 24% among “very likely” Republican voters, while 15% said they would vote for state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. Suspended northern Kentucky attorney Eric Deters is in fourth place with 6%.

But candidates still have room to change hearts and minds before the primary election on May 16, with 21% of respondents saying they’re still unsure who to vote for.

The survey of 900 people found Cameron to be the strongest Republican candidate, with 63% saying they had a favorable view of them. 47% said they had a favorable opinion of Craft, and 39% said they had a favorable opinion of Quarles.

The poll is the first independent look at the Republican primary race since Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy showed Cameron leading Craft 39% to 13% in January. Quarles had 8% support in that survey.

The poll was conducted on April 10 and 11 and has a 3.2% margin of error.

Unlike the January poll, this one did not ask questions about hypothetical matchups between GOP candidates and Beshear, who has had consistently high approval ratings and doesn’t have major challengers in this year’s Democratic primary.

Craft’s polling surge comes after her campaign and supportive political groups flooded the airwaves for months with ads touting her conservative credentials, including anti-trans stances, and attacking Cameron as a “teddy bear” who isn’t conservative enough for the state.

Craft’s campaign and Commonwealth PAC, an aligned political group, have spent $4.72 million on TV and radio advertisements raising her name recognition and attacking Cameron.

Meanwhile Cameron and supportive group Bluegrass Freedom Action have spent $1.16 million.

Quarles, who hasn’t yet aired TV ads, still racked up seven more percentage points since the January survey.

In a tweet, he said the poll shows his campaign is “in a great position to win the GOP nomination.”

“Without a single dime spent on media, our strong grassroots support, 120 county approach, and 235+ endorsements show our own conservative brand is working,” Quarles wrote.

Few people vote in Kentucky’s primary elections, especially when state offices are the only contests on the ballot in odd-numbered years like 2023. In 2019, 19% of registered voters cast a ballot in the primary. In the 2015 primary, turnout was less than 13%.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at