FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A former University of Louisville football player and lawyer for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed to run for attorney general in Kentucky, setting up a primary with a powerful state senator.
Daniel Cameron filed paperwork Tuesday to seek the Republican nomination for attorney general. He is the second Republican to enter the race, joining Whitney Westerfield, a former prosecutor who is now chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee.
No Democrats have filed for the seat yet, but former state House Speaker Greg Stumbo has said he plans to run. Democrat Attorney General Andy Beshear is not seeking re-election and is running for governor instead.
Kentucky has not had a Republican attorney general since 1948. But the state has transformed itself into a GOP powerhouse in recent years, with Republicans capturing the governor's office and winning super majorities in the state legislature. In 2015, Westerfield lost a close race to Beshear for attorney general.
"I'm obviously a new voice, a new face for the Republican Party in this primary," Cameron said in an interview. "I think Whitney had an opportunity four years ago ... and we've seen what's happened when a Republican does not win in the general election and how difficult that has been for the governor."
Westerfield declined to comment.
Beshear has often clashed with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in the courts, suing him multiple times for his use of executive authority. Most recently, the state Supreme Court struck down a law Bevin signed that made changes to the state's struggling public pension systems. Cameron said if elected, he would enforce the state's laws, but said he would not politicize the job.
"The governor needs a constructive partner. Kentuckians need a constructive partner," Cameron said. "I just don't think that's happening right now."
After getting a law degree from the University of Louisville and working in private practice, Cameron went to Washington to work as McConnell's lawyer from 2015 to 2017. He worked with the Senate Judiciary Committee on the confirmation process of several conservative judges. And he helped increase funding for a trio of northern Kentucky counties to investigate drug trafficking, calling that "one of the highlights of my time there."
Cameron called the drug epidemic, especially overdose deaths related to opioids, "the public safety challenge of our lifetime." He said he wants to use the relationships he built with federal law enforcement agencies while in Washington to help "enhance the drug enforcement priorities of Kentucky."
Under Beshear, the Attorney General's Office has sued nine opioid manufacturers and distributors for contributing to Kentucky's drug epidemic. He awarded a state contract to a group of private law firms to handle those cases, which will get a percentage of anything Kentucky wins in a settlement or judgment. Bevin's administration is challenging that contract, saying it does not have enough protections for the taxpayers.
Asked if he would continue those lawsuits, Cameron said he would evaluate "on a case by case basis every case that is in front of the Attorney General's Office."