Four Kentucky GOP governor candidates make pitches in TV debate

Alan Keck, Mike Harmon, Ryan Quarles, Daniel Cameron
Posted at 7:58 AM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 07:58:02-05

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Four of the candidates running in Kentucky's Republican gubernatorial primary took turns advocating conservative themes in a televised debate Tuesday night, supporting income tax cuts and parental input in public schools and stating their opposition to abortion.

Daniel Cameron, Ryan Quarles, Alan Keck and Mike Harmon also took potshots at Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and President Joe Biden during the hourlong debate ahead of the May 16 vote.

The GOP primary winner will advance to the general election in November. Beshear is seeking a second term.

The four Republican candidates endorsed the individual income tax cuts successfully pushed by Kentucky's GOP-dominated legislature, as well as the GOP-backed efforts to give parents a greater voice in education policies.

And they used the time to introduce themselves to a larger audience or to reinforce the themes they've pressed during the campaign.

“I know many of you might be asking, ‘who in the heck is this Alan Keck guy?'” said Keck, the mayor of Somerset. “And I’m confident that in time I will emerge as a candidate who's authentic, who's excited and who's transparent. And who's going to bring a message of hope and opportunity to our commonwealth.”

Quarles, the state's agriculture commissioner, told Kentuckians that "I'm one of you'' and pointed to the work ethic he gained while growing up on his family's farm.

“I was taught lessons at a young age that if you want something in life, you have to go out and earn it and not wait for the government to send you a paycheck,” Quarles said.

Cameron touted his endorsement from former President Donald Trump and his efforts as Kentucky's attorney general to challenge Beshear and Biden policies in court. He also pointed to his defense of strict anti-abortion laws in the state.

“And there's only one candidate that has gotten abortion facilities closed since last August. I'm that candidate,” Cameron said

Harmon, in his second term as state auditor, portrayed himself as the most experienced candidate, pointing to his time as a state lawmaker before he became a statewide officer. He slammed Beshear for focusing on “fear over freedom” with his pandemic-related restrictions. Beshear says his actions saved lives during the pandemic.

Twelve candidates are competing for the Republican nomination.

The Kentucky campaign is drawing national attention — a year ahead of races for control of the White House and Congress — to see if the popular Democratic incumbent can overcome his party’s struggles in the GOP-trending state.