Four GOP gubernatorial candidates debate the issues


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — 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.

What You Need To Know

  •  Four of the twelve Republican candidates for governor participated in the debate

  •  Spectrum News 1 and the the Jefferson County Republican party produced the debate

  •  The four candidates touted income tax cuts, parental input on education and their abortion stances

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.

All the candidates aligned on many issues and instead of attacking each other, went after Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. 

 Harmon said, “He couldn’t deliver on unemployment because he shut down the in-person unemployment offices and we will remind the state what a terrible job the current governor has done.” 

Somerset Mayor Keck shared he supports additional exceptions to Kentucky’s abortion ban. 

“While I’m absolutely pro-life, I do believe there should be some exceptions, and that’s not because I minimize the life of that child. It’s because I think there has to be some consideration for the woman in the event of violent trauma,” said Keck.

On the question of legalizing sports betting, Cameron said he might get behind it stating, “I am glad that the Legislature is having this conversation. I think if we can put tight … constraints around it, making sure that it’s properly regulated, then I could see myself supporting something if it was to come to my desk as governor.” 

Keck and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles agreed when it comes to legalizing Medical Cannabis. 

 Quarles, who announced his support of cannabis last week, said, “I want to work with our leaders, in both in the House and Senate, bring in the medical experts as well, and get it done right.” 

And when it was all over, some couldn’t pick a clear winner. 

Voter Dottie Krause told Spectrum News 1, “I really couldn’t make my mind up. I thought all of them were excellent. Any one of them that won the nomination, I think I would be happy with.”  

All the candidates pledged to debate the Democratic nominee — if they make it through the primary on May 16. 

Following the debate, Kentucky Democratic Party chair Colmon Elridge issued a response saying, “The clear winner of this debate was Andy Beshear. We heard a lot of noise and not a lot of substance, all meant to distract from the lack of plans to deliver real solutions for Kentuckians and their families. While Governor Beshear has a long list of accomplishments that are helping people and creating opportunities for Kentuckians in every corner of the commonwealth – tonight I did not hear the GOP candidates talk about policies or actions that would improve the lives of Kentucky families.”

He added, “When they weren’t competing with each other to stake out the most extreme, far-right stances on the stage, all four candidates defaulted to supporting the popular policy agenda of Gov, Andy Beshear. Several supported legalization of medical marijuana, a policy that their colleagues in the legislature continue to block, and all four candidates supported the income tax cut that Governor Beshear signed into law weeks ago.”

Twelve candidates are competing for the Republican nomination. Republican candidate Kelly Craft was invited to the debate but declined to take part.

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.

The debate was hosted Spectrum News 1 in partnership with  the Jefferson County Republican Party.

The Associated Press contributed to this story