A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Opposing political pundits at NKY Chamber forum agree on frontrunner in 2023 governor’s race: Andy Beshear

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter
Expert political analyst Scott Jennings, often delivering cogent analyses on CNN, has experience working with Republican campaigns of such political heavyweights as U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and former President George W. Bush.

Mark Riddle, founder and senior strategist for the Joe Biden super political action committee Unite the Country, leans Democrat in his political work.

Scott Jennings

But at a forum sponsored Thursday morning by the Northern Kentucky Chamber at the Hilton Cincinnati Airport in Florence, the two well-known political observers of opposite political parties agreed on who would win the Kentucky governor’s race if it were held now instead of November 2023.

Both Jennings and Riddle said current Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear appears to be leading the pack of candidates who want to start in December 2023 a four-year term governing the state.

“I think Beshear is, personally, right side up,” said Jennings. “His party is upside down.”

Riddle said Beshear gets high marks for his handling of natural disasters and economic development and has not recorded any scandal.

He said he expects Republicans will come hard at Beshear for his tight handling of the COVID-19 pandemic even though many praise him for his efforts on a deadly illness that was so unknown.

Riddle declined to weigh in on the 2023 Republican primary election for governor but Jennings said he thinks Attorney General Daniel Cameron is the front runner at this time.

Cameron, who has been endorsed by former President Trump, could lose that status if he encounters huge amounts of campaign money against him, said Jennings. Former U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, who is married to coal magnate Joe Craft, is able to pour much money into her race.

Mark Riddle

Other candidates in the GOP primary election are Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Auditor Mike Harmon, Rep. Savannah Maddox of Dry Ridge and former attorney Eric Deters.

Jennings said it is possible more Republicans might enter the race, saying there are rumors that former Gov. Matt Bevin and John Schnatter¸ an entrepreneur who founded the Papa John’s pizza restaurant, might be candidates.

He noted that the primary winner will be determined simply by who gets the most votes. “It just means that somebody who can grab onto 25 or 30 percent could be your nominee.”

Concerning this fall’s national mid-term elections, Jennings and Riddle said it is uncertain which party will dominate the U.S. Senate and House.

The Senate now is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casting any tie-breaking vote.  Democrats now hold a 220-212 advantage in the House with three vacancies.

Jennings predicted that Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Louisville will retain his party’s leadership in the Senate whatever party is in control – even despite Trump’s barrage of criticism against McConnell.

If Republicans gain control of both the U.S. House and Senate in November, Riddle said he would expect two years of GOP efforts to block Biden’s legislative agenda and investigations of his administration.

In Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race in November featuring Republican incumbent Rand Paul of Bowling Green and Louisville Democrat Charles Booker, both Jennings and Riddle predicted an easy win for Paul.

The two also agreed that Republicans will keep control of five of Kentucky’s six Congressional districts. The lone Democratic district now is the 3rd in Jefferson County, where incumbent John Yarmuth is retiring. Seeking to replace Yarmuth are Democrat Morgan McGarvey and Republican Stuart Ray.

And it’s a foregone conclusion, the pundits said, that Republicans in November will retain control of both the Kentucky Senate and House. Republicans now outnumber Democrats in the state Senate 30-8 and 75-25 in the state House.

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