RCN Interviews KY Attorney General Candidates
Daniel Cameron (Republican):
Cameron is a Hardin County native that has spent the past two-and-a-half years as Sen. Mitch McConnell's general counsel in Washington, D.C. While there, he said he has proudly worked with law enforcement personnel including Ky. law enforcement officers, Ky. Narcotics Officer Association, NKY Drug Strike Force, State Rep. Kim Moser (R-Taylor Mill), federal and state prosecutors, and the FBI.
He decided to run for the attorney general's office in January to "reclaim the office of AG," he said, and to be a meaningful contributor to the fight against opioids. The beginning of his general election campaign was marred by a lawsuit claiming that he was ineligible for the AG office because of his lack of courtroom experience. Kentucky's state constitution requires attorneys to practice law for eight years before being eligible to serve as AG. While Cameron has had his license for eight years, he was prohibited from practicing law while serving as a federal law clerk after obtaining his license.
He won that legal battle.
Cameron sees the role of AG as being the chief law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
"I was fortunate to make it out of the primary on May 21, and that's been the focus of this campaign for me," he said, noting his victory over State Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder). "Making sure that people know this office really should be the advocate for Commonwealth and County Attorneys, and the law enforcement more globally."
Cameron says that he has talked to people in law enforcement who feel they haven't had a voice in Frankfort across Ky. and he wants to ensure them that he is willing to step up to that role.
Greg Stumbo (Democrat):
No stranger to Ky. state government, Stumbo served in the general assembly for 32 years - 19 of which he was the majority leader and 8 of which he was the speaker. Stumbo also served as Ky.'s AG from 2004-2007.
Stumbo claims that he is uniquely qualified for the position of AG because his administration compiled the legal strategy for suing drug manufacturers and distributors for the opioid epidemic, a strategy that is now being used nationally.
"What has motivated me to seek the office again is the opioid epidemic," Stumbo said. "When I was Attorney General before, we knew it was happening but we didn't know how bad it was because much of the information was not public at that time - now it is."
Stumbo's initial lawsuit was settled after he left the office by AG Conway (D) for a record-setting at the time $24 million. Recently, Oklahoma settled a similar case for more than $500 million; Stumbo believes that all nine cases that are currently in Ky.'s courts are stronger than the one in Oklahoma.
"I want to finish what I started," he said. "This war that I started with the opioid industry."
The Opioid Crisis
Both of the candidates have made the opioid crisis a main talking point for their campaign. However, there is a disagreement on the best way to go about combating the epidemic.
Cameron's plan is to better leverage relationships that he has in DC, while holding drug manufacturers criminally and civilly accountable where possible. Cameron has stated that on day one of his tenure as AG he reopen the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma that General Conway settled for $24 million - calling the sum paltry.
Stumbo called manufacturers and distributors of opioid medications corporate criminals several times during RCN's exclusive interview with him, and was steadfast about serving justice in Ky.'s court of law.
Stumbo also said that the little bit of aid that the federal government gives is like throwing a pebble in the ocean - it obviously helps a little, but it doesn't solve the problem.
Citing Oklahoma's landmark opioid case that was resolved two months ago, Stumbo approximates that as AG, his administration could raise approximately $4.5 billion from the nine currently open lawsuits in Ky. that he would apply to treatment, education, prevention and curing those afflicted with addiction.
It's estimated that more than 400 thousand Kentuckians are suffering from addiction.
"We won't get enough in federal funding, I can tell you that," Stumbo said.
Candidate Impact on Northern Kentucky and Law Enforcement
Both candidates have expressed an interest in increasing and improving community relations that extend into NKY through bolstering the AG's field offices. At an Oct. 11 press conference that followed a meeting with NKY law enforcement personnel during which Cameron discussed his priorities for the AG's office, Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders expressed his support for Cameron's candidacy.
"Daniel is the first candidate in over a decade who is interested in being the chief law enforcement officer instead of a politician," Sanders said. "That politician mindset led to a deterioration of the office and I'm confident that he will restore all the services and functions that we lost."
Sanders also stated his appreciation that Cameron is accessible, saying that he has had Cameron's cell phone number for years before this campaign.
When asked about his involvement with law enforcement, Stumbo cited his support for the Kentucky Bureau of Investigations - a hyper-focused team of investigators that work with local police and prosecutors to crack down on public corruption, conduct sting operations, and solve cold cases.
In addition to this team conducting more operations in NKY, Stumbo said that he would be a proactive administration and wouldn't simply sit behind a desk in Frankfort by reconstituting branch offices across the commonwealth.
"Cameron has never tried a traffic case, he's never tried a jaywalking case," Stumbo said. "He's never defended a traffic case or really been before a Kentucky jury, so it's going to be very difficult for him to step in and try to lead a team of prosecutors when he has no idea how to prosecute a case."
Abortion and Roe v. Wade
In early Oct. Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization that advocates for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, endorsed Matt Bevin's campaign for governor, and was active in NKY canvassing voters with Andy Beshear's record on pro-life legislation, announced that it was endorsing Cameron's run for AG.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of Susan B. Anthony List, said that her organization chooses strategic races to get involved with and looks for strong pro-life advocates to endorse.
When Cameron was asked about abortion laws and if Roe V. Wade needed to be overturned he gave an unequivocal yes.
"I'm certainly 100-percent pro-life and would like to see that change," he said. "This is somewhat personal for me because since the Roe V. Wade ruling there has been nearly 20 million African-American babies that have been aborted."
"I think this is a generation of folks that are coming up that in my judgement have a heart for the unborn," Cameron continued. "And want to see Roe V. Wade repealed in many ways."
Both Cameron and Dannenfelser expressed concerns about Stumbo's blocking of anti-abortion legislation while in leadership positions in the state legislature and Beshear's involvement with fighting anti-abortion legislation in the office of the AG.
"I think [Stumbo's] values on this issue are inconsistent with the majority of Kentuckians, and so I think they want somebody in this job, and in the AG's office in particular, that wants to defend and enforce the laws passed by the Kentucky General Assembly," Cameron said. "I think if you look at General Beshear and the way he's run the office - he sat on the sidelines on a number of pieces of legislation that had to do with improving the pro-life environment in the commonwealth."
Cameron said that the AG's office should enforce the laws passed by the state legislature, and shouldn't substitute his or her preferences for the will of the people.
Stumbo said he considers this to be pandering and stated that the AG's office is not the type of position where you get to make those kinds of decisions where you support or don't support certain legislation.
"As Attorney General you're sworn to uphold the constitution and the laws that are pursuant to the constitution and are constitutional," he said. "And no matter what that law is, whether you like it or not, you are sworn to uphold it."
Stumbo said that the laws he stopped while in leadership were already declared unconstitutional in other jurisdictions across the country and that the AG's oath of office requires him or her to uphold those laws.
"Having been a legislator and knowing the dynamics of how that works - they're pandering political beliefs for political support and they don't care about the constitution," Stumbo said. "My religion leads me to respect the sanctity of life, I voted for pro-life legislation that was constitutional when I was a legislator but my oath of office requires that I respect the constitution."
"And I'm not going to vote for something that is clearly unconstitutional just to gain some political support with a group of people who are politically active," he continued. "I understand that they have very sincere and emotional beliefs about what they believe, but that's not what the constitution is designed to do. It's designed to be a protection for all people and to pander to any group in an unconstitutional manner as AG, I think is not something that is good for our democracy, not something that is good for our commonwealth, and certainly not something that the public ought to condone."
Written by Connor Wall, associate editor