GOP challenger rips Dem governor over violent crime as major police group flips support in crucial race

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EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Cameron, Kentucky’s Republican attorney general and nominee for governor, is upping his attacks against incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s handling of violent crime across the commonwealth following a major police group flipping its endorsement to the GOP challenger.

Speaking with Fox News Digital just weeks from Election Day in the most highly anticipated race of the year, Cameron touted the Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police’s (FOP) endorsement flip after endorsing Beshear in 2019, arguing it was the result of the “havoc” unleashed by the governor on Kentucky communities when it came to violent crime.

“I think the Kentucky state FOP, which is the largest law enforcement organization in the state, has shown great confidence in our campaign and our commitment to standing up for our law enforcement community, which is in contrast with Andy Beshear, who only does it when it is convenient,” Cameron said.

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“This governor unleashed havoc on our communities in many ways. Here’s a governor that in 2020 let out 1,700 criminals from jail — and a third of those recommitted offenses in our communities,” he said, referencing Beshear’s early release of some inmates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (left) and Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (right). (Getty Images)

The FOP’s flip to Cameron, although significant, isn’t the first time the group has shifted its support between parties. In addition to Beshear in 2019, the group also endorsed the Democratic candidate for governor in 2015 and 2007, but switched to the Republican candidate in 2011. The group’s endorsed candidates in 2011 and 2015 were not elected.

Cameron told Fox that law enforcement wanted “leadership in the governor’s office that’s going to back them not only in word, but also in deed,” and said he would implement policies aimed at recruiting and retaining officers, as well as establish a Kentucky State Police post in Louisville, the largest city in the commonwealth.

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Last month, Cameron unveiled a 12-point public safety plan to rein in crime across Kentucky, which includes, in addition to his previously mentioned policies, pursuing the death penalty for someone who murders a police officer, reforming the parole board, increased penalties for drug traffickers who kill Kentuckians, and passing a standalone carjacking statute.

When asked about the plan, Cameron said he wanted it to be a model for other states across the country dealing with increased crime, including Democrat-led states like California, New York and Illinois. 

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Republican Kentucky Attorney General and nominee for governor Daniel Cameron talks with police officers while on the campaign trail. (Daniel Cameron for Governor)

“I certainly want Kentucky to lead the nation on a multitude of factors, whether it’s addressing the issue of violent crime or education,” he said. “But as it pertains specifically to violent crime, I certainly think that putting money behind our effort, meaning making sure that our law enforcement community knows that they are supported with funding and resources so that morale improves amongst their ranks, so they feel like they’re in a position to do their job effectively.” 

“We know from the old adage that if you address the small things, then you can avoid the larger societal issues that arise. And so it is a strong 12-point plan,” he said.

Cameron went on to blast what he called Beshear’s — as well as President Biden’s — lack of action to address the issue of fentanyl pouring onto American streets from abroad. 

“Beshear, hasn’t done anything to address this issue or to push back against the Biden administration that has been inept at controlling and maintaining our southern border. [He] is beholden to the far left and to Joe Biden, and so he cannot speak out on these really big issues that are important to our citizens here in Kentucky,” he said.

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Republican Kentucky Attorney General and nominee for governor waves to supporters during a parade alongside wife, Makenze, and son, Theodore. (Daniel Cameron for Governor)

In addition to the FOP, Cameron has been endorsed by almost 200 law enforcement officials from across the commonwealth. However, Beshear has also received his fair share of law enforcement support.

More than 35 law enforcement officials announced their endorsement of Beshear over Cameron in June, but the latter dismissed that support, saying his “dwarfs” what Beshear has received. Cameron added that his endorsements were evidence that law enforcement policy in the commonwealth needed a new direction.

“That new direction is a governor in the form of me that will stand with them, not just when it’s convenient, but will stand with them when times are challenging, when times are good,” he said. “I’m always going to be there for our law enforcement community because I know at the end of the day, support for our law enforcement community means that we can keep our streets safe of crime and drugs. Andy Beshear doesn’t understand that.”

When reached for comment, Beshear’s campaign slammed Cameron for his claims that violent crime has continued to increase across the commonwealth, pointing to his role as attorney general during the period he says crime has risen.

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Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear sits for an interview in Versailles, Ky. on May 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

“Daniel Cameron has refused to take any responsibility for crime as attorney general and helped cover for Matt Bevin’s indefensible pardons for murderers and a child rapist,” Beshear campaign spokesperson Alex Floyd told Fox, referencing the governor’s Republican predecessor’s controversial pardons ahead of leaving office.

“Under Andy Beshear, violent crime rates are down and pay for state troopers is up. Unlike Daniel Cameron’s record of covering for criminals and lying about grand jury proceedings, Andy Beshear actually delivered pay raises for law enforcement – leading to the largest Kentucky State Police recruiting class in years,” he added.

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Floyd’s statement about violent crime being down in Kentucky was in reference to the report on the commonwealth’s 2022 crime statistics released last month that showed a double-digit drop in homicides, robberies and drug offenses from 2021.

The report initially showed a drop of 33.4% in reported homicides, but revelations that Jefferson County, which contains Louisville, undercounted murders reported by the police department brought the reduction to 17.9%, still a double-digit drop from the previous year.

Brandon Gillespie is an associate editor at Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @brandon_cg.

GOP challenger rips Dem governor over violent crime as major police group flips support in crucial race

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