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Kentucky Primary 2019: GOP Attorney General Candidates Jostle For Position

J. Tyler Franklin

A protégé of Sen. Mitch McConnell and a state senator are facing off in this year’s Republican primary election for attorney general.

Daniel Cameron, 33, and Sen. Wil Schroder, 36, don’t differ much on policy issues — they both want to combat Kentucky’s opioid addiction epidemic and make the attorney general’s office less of a barb in the side of the Republican-led legislature.

But the primary race has gotten nasty, with Cameron accusing Schroder of being a “secret Democrat” in campaign mailers and Schroder fighting back in commercials that show him shooting a TV and proclaiming that he will work with President Trump to “keep illegals, drugs and crime out of Kentucky.”

Cameron defended his ads in an interview on Tuesday.

“We’ve been contrasting our record with that of Wil’s, allowing ultimately for Republican Kentucky primary voters to make the ultimate decision,” Cameron said.

Cameron worked as an attorney for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from 2015 to 2017 before returning to Kentucky to work as a corporate lawyer for Frost Brown Todd in Louisville.

He played football at the University of Louisville, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree.

Schroder was first elected to the state Senate in 2014 representing Campbell, Pendleton and Bracken counties. He previously worked as a prosecutor in Campbell County but now practices public finance law at Dinsmore & Shohl.

Schroder says his prosecutorial experience gives him a leg up on his bid to be the state’s chief law enforcement officer. Cameron touts his role helping secure the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch while he worked for McConnell.

Both the candidates criticize current Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear for suing Gov. Matt Bevin and the legislature over the pension bill that was ultimately struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Schroder says he will defend laws that pass out of the legislature, including the spate of anti-abortion measures that have been challenged in federal court in recent years.

“The people at the local level are voting for these pro-life candidates. When the pro-life legislation passes the General Assembly, I think they expect an attorney general that’s going to stand and defend that pro-life legislation,” Schroder said.

Cameron expressed a similar view on the issue.

“You don’t send the attorney general there to substitute his preferences or his views on legislation for those of the General Assembly. I’m going to be in the business of enforcing the law that’s passed by the General Assembly,” Cameron said.

poll of Kentucky Republican voters this week showed Cameron with a 7 point lead over Schroder, but that 55 percent of voters were still undecided.

Kentucky has not had a Republican attorney general since 1948 and, in recent history, Democrats who have occupied the office have made life difficult for Republican governors they serve with.

Current Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear — who isn’t seeking re-election and is instead running for governor — has sued Republican Gov. Matt Bevin repeatedly since the two men took office three and a half years ago.

A similar situation happened when former Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo investigated former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s hiring practices, ultimately leading to Fletcher’s downfall.

Stumbo is hoping to return to the office. He ran uncontested in this year’s Democratic primary for attorney general and will face either Schroder or Cameron in the general election in November.

The primary election is May 21.

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
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