As Kentucky governor’s race tightens, Pro-Cameron PAC attacks Craft 2023

After more than a month of advertising targeting Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s record, a political action organization supporting Cameron released a television ad against his top GOP gubernatorial rival.

The advertisement criticizes former ambassador Kelly Craft for not getting the endorsement of former president Donald Trump despite working under him, absenteeism from her ambassador duties, and the “empty chair” ad that was criticized as insensitive to drug victims’ families.

“Craft worked for president Trump and Trump endorsed Daniel, not Craft—maybe because while working for taxpayers, Kelly Craft was absent half the time.”

“And then Craft got caught misleading Kentuckians in her opioid ad,” a Bluegrass Freedom Action narrator says. Craft is hit when she appears to have bridged the gap with Cameron. According to Emerson College and Fox56/WDKY, Cameron has 30% of “very likely” GOP primary votes, while Craft has 24%.

Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, who has not advertised this cycle, placed third. Cameron led the January Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategies poll with 39%, followed by Craft with 12% and Quarles with 8%.

Ad context

Commonwealth PAC, a Craft-supporting PAC, has been airing ads criticizing Cameron’s “establishment” views, criminal justice, and coal records for over a month. Craft’s campaign has criticized Cameron for shutting a West Virginia coal plant instead of raising rates to keep it running.

In the summer of 2022, Trump endorsed Cameron over Craft, although Craft had not yet announced her governorship bid. Craft has mentioned timing in interviews. Craft had openly considered a governorship for months before her announcement.

The ad’s assertion that Craft was “absent from her post” half the time comes from a 2019 POLITICO report about her time away from the U.S. embassy in Canada.

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported the results. Republicans on the committee said Craft worked 194 days in Kentucky or Oklahoma, where her husband Joe Craft’s coal company is situated, instead of 210.

Craft’s “opioid ad” was condemned for portraying that a family member perished from addiction. Craft’s “empty chair at the table” was her daughter’s rehab. Craft “had to have her arrested,” she said Friday. Craft called that daughter “healthy.”

SPENT HOW MUCH?

Craft, Cameron, and their supporters spent over $6 million on ads. Medium Buying reports that Craft and Commonwealth PAC have spent $4.8 million and Cameron and his PAC around $1.2 million. Northern Kentucky retired attorney Eric Deters is the only other candidate advertising, spending over $135,000 on cable TV spots. The Emerson survey placed Deters fourth with 6% support.

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