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Kentucky's incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear reelected, CBS News projects

Gov. Andy Beshear projected to win reelection
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear projected to win reelection 05:10

CBS News projects that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has been reelected to a second term, defeating the state's Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron. 

Beshear has been a popular governor, with broad approval of his handling of the pandemic and natural disasters in the state. Cameron tried to tie Beshear to President Biden, who is unpopular in the state. 

In his victory speech, Beshear said, "Tonight, Kentucky made a choice, a choice not to move to the right or to the left, but to move forward for every single family, a choice to reject team R or team D, and to state clearly that we are one team Kentucky."

Trump won Kentucky by 26 points in 2020, so Beshear had to make inroads with Trump voters and ensure voters in Democratic districts, including the cities of Louisville and Lexington and the Cincinnati suburbs in northern Kentucky. 

Cameron had managed to get Trump's support as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the state's senior senator who is one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington. Cameron was a protege of McConnell's, and helped oversee the confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

As recently as mid-October, Beshear was leading by 16 points, but an Emerson College poll from last week had the race in a dead heat, with both candidates at 47% and 4% undecided. 

Who is Andy Beshear?

The son of a former governor, Beshear, 45, was elected in 2019, unseating incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin by around 5,000 votes. Trump won Kentucky by 30 points in 2016, and both its senators are Republicans, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of Washington's powerful Republicans. 

In 2019, Bevin was the least popular governor in the country, according to Morning Consult, with a disapproval rating of 56%. Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at University of Louisville, noted Bevin had also gone to war with the teachers, who helped drive turnout to Beshear. 

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear speaks to supporters during a stop of his statewide bus tour in Richmond, Ky., Monday, Oct. 30, 2023. Timothy D. Easley / AP

Beshear was faced with the pandemic less than four months after he became governor. He kept the state informed with daily news conferences and was widely praised. Kentucky was also struck by natural disasters — a deadly tornado in 2021 and devastating floods in 2022 — and Beshear showed up to address the aftermath. His frequent presence led many Kentuckians to refer to him as just "Andy," Clayton said. 

He has sought to emphasize working with Republicans throughout the campaign.

"I run as a proud Democrat, but you saw the moment I won, I took that hat off and I serve every single family because it's time for us to recognize that a good job isn't Democrat or Republican," Beshear said Monday. "So, whether you're a Democrat, Republican or independent, there is a place for you in this campaign."

Who is Daniel Cameron?

Cameron, 37, came to office as the state's first Black attorney general the same year as Beshear, in 2019.

He's an ally of McConnell and shepherded Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch through his confirmation process. Cameron.

Kentucky's Attorney General Daniel Cameron
Republican candidate for governor, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, speaks to the press during a campaign event on Nov. 6, 2023 in Louisville. Michael Swensen / Getty Images

"A lot of people have generally underestimated McConnell and McConnell's ability to sort of farm campaigns and as strategic enough to know where to put money and when," Clayton said. "I would venture to say this race is tied because of McConnell and McConnell's presence and the ground game that they have." 

Cameron's ties to McConnell has helped him with establishment Republicans, and he also won Trump's endorsement over a year before the election. Trump, who testified Monday in New York in a civil fraud case targeting him and his company, then held a tele-rally for Cameron. 

What are the other major issues in the race?

In March 2020, a Black medical worker named Breonna Taylor was shot to death by police officers during a raid on her apartment while she was sleeping. Taylor's boyfriend thought the Louisville Metro police officers were intruders, and fired his handgun at them. The officers fired 22 shots into the apartment in response, one of which struck and killed Taylor.

In September 2020, Cameron announced a grand jury had "agreed" not to charge the three officers involved, though One was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for firing his gun outside of Taylor's apartment and later acquitted.

The lack of charges made Louisville the epicenter of racial justice protests, and some grand jurors emerged to publicly disagree with Cameron's description of the closed-door proceedings. 

He defended his actions in a 2021 interview with the Associated Press, saying that prosecutors in his office had an obligation "to bring forward recommendations on which they think they can prove in front of a jury in a trial. That was what our prosecutors believed was appropriate."

In 2022, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland brought civil rights charges against the four officers involved. 

Earlier this year, Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, endorsed a grassroots campaign to mobilize voters against Cameron in the race. 

What time are the polls open in Kentucky? 

The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET for the portions of the state on Eastern Standard Time, and 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET for the portions on Central Standard time. For a list of polling locations, go here

Taurean Small contributed to this report.

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