The two Republican candidates for attorney general have a lot in common. Both are attorneys practicing in the north-central part of the state. Both take a very strong anti-drug stance. And both are extremely critical of the way current Attorney General Andy Beshear has performed his job over the last three years.
Daniel Cameron, an Elizabethtown native and Louisville attorney, and Wil Schroder, a current state senator from Campbell County, face each other in the May primary, with the top vote-getter going on to challenge Democratic candidate Greg Stumbo in the fall.
Beshear, instead of trying for a second term for attorney general, has joined a crowded field in the Democratic race for governor. During his time in office, Beshear has often been at odds with current Governor Matt Bevin, which has not gone unnoticed by the Republicans.
Cameron’s take: “Over the last few years, what we have been seeing from the attorney general’s office is an office that’s focused on suing the governor at every turn, and so I think a lot of folks have lost respect for the office because they see it as more of a political instrument or political tool as opposed to an office that is concerned about the public safety of the men, women and children of all 120 counties,” Cameron said.
“The first thing I would bring to the table is depoliticizing the office,” he continued. “I often tell people Kentuckians send their elected representatives to the General Assembly to make policy judgments for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. They didn’t send the attorney general. They didn’t send Andy Beshear to Frankfort to then substitute his judgment for the collective judgement of the General Assembly.”
One of those assemblymen, Schroder, spoke out against Beshear as well.
“From day one, he was pretty much on the attack,” Schroder said of Beshear. “And I think that’s not what the office is there for. You’re top law enforcement. You’re the chief prosecutor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We’ve got plenty of problems here in Kentucky that need attention. So when you make the office about yourself and make it about partisan politics It just doesn’t sit well with me.”
He continued, “I’m not going to have my eye on something down the road. I have my eye on being the best attorney general I can be.”
Schroder’s resume includes graduating from the University of Kentucky before attending law school at Northern Kentucky University. He is a former assistant commonwealth attorney for Campbell County, holding that job for four and a half years. As such, he is quick to point out that he is the only candidate in the race with criminal prosecuting experience.
“As Kentucky’s chief law enforcement officer and top prosecutor, I think this office is way too important for on the job training, and you have to have someone that has that experience,” Schroder said.
Schroder said he is in an excellent position to advocate for county and commonwealth attorneys across the state.
He had a message for those attorneys: “I’ve been in the trenches where you guys have been, and I understand the frustrations when sometimes the legislation doesn’t meet the real world.”
Cameron’s background includes spending both his undergraduate and graduate years at the University of Louisville, going to the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.
As an undergrad, Cameron explained that he “played a little football.”
“I often tell people that ‘play’ is probably too generous of a term. I spent a lot of time on the bench rooting for other people who were much more talented that I was,” he laughed. “But it was a good experience nonetheless.”
He graduated into a career that included working under federal U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove for two years, returning to Louisville to join a practice, then, in the early months of 2015, accepting an offer to become the legal counsel for Senator Mitch McConnell.
“I handled the legal and compliance issues for the office, but in addition to that I had a legislative portfolio, so I handled judicial nominations for the senator,” he said.
When interviewed, both candidates quickly turned their attention to Beshear and the controversies surrounding his tenure.
But when asked directly their opinion on 2018’s Senate Bill 1 — the pension reform bill that so angered teachers and the passage of which has been deemed unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme court — Cameron keep his statements focused on Beshear’s actions rather addressing the bill itself.
“I think what has happened over the last few years with the attorney general’s office, is that people see that as a legislative office because of the way it was utilized by Andy Beshear. I take the view that my responsibility is to stay largely out of the legislative process.”
Schroder, on the other hand, said the way SB 1 was passed was not unique, and the method has been utilized in the past.
“I think that the way that bill was passed was a huge part of the problem,” Schroder began.
“I just went through a 2018 election cycle [for Senate] where I had a number of people say, ‘I agree that changes had to be made, but the way it was done is what upset me.’ And I think that’s what upset a number of the teachers. I’m always in favor in transparency, and so when the voters feel like that was taken away from them — on the flip side, that way of passing bills had always happened, whether it was Democrats in control or Republicans, we’ve seen that time and time again in crunch hours, whether it’s the budget or any other bills.
“The heroin bill, for instance, passed in the exact same way, but it didn’t carry the controversy with it that the pension bill did.”
With the ill feelings between Republicans and Democrats — and the feud surrounding the offices of attorney general and governor — the question naturally arises as to whether each Republican candidate feels he can work with the office of the governor, even if that office is filled by a Democrat.
Both answer that they can.
Schroder said, “Even if a Democrat were to get elected — and that’s not what I want, I certainly want a Republican governor — but if a Democrat were to get elected as governor, I would be approaching this from a position of, ‘Are they following the law?’ Not, ‘How can I make political shots?’”
Cameron stated, “I think that the authorizing statute of the attorney general … says pretty plainly, in my view, that the responsibility of the attorney general is to hold and enforce the laws that are passed by the General Assembly. And so, that would be the oath and the charge that I would take.”
Meaning that should the General Assembly, or even the office of the governor, fall into the hands of Democratic control, Cameron said he would work with them to the benefit of the state.
“I would be willing to work with anybody that wants to get a handle on the drug epidemic that we have in the Commonwealth,” he said.
While working in McConnell’s office, Cameron worked closely with Kentucky law enforcement and acted as a liaison between the two. It was through that Cameron said he saw how law enforcement, task forces and prosecutors were dealing with drugs in their community.
And while he puts the creation of laws squarely on the shoulders of legislators, his personal view on certain issues reflects his anti-drug, conservative values.
The possibility of marijuana use, for example: “For my view, my judgment, I think anyone who’s running to be the chief law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth of Kentucky needs to have an opinion that's consistent with law enforcement. The personal view that I have is that I’m just not supportive of recreational usage of marijuana. I have grave concerns about that. ... There’s a lot of people that question whether it’s a slippery slope, if it’s a gateway drug, and so I think we’ve already got enough challenges as it relates to the drug epidemic here. I’d be worried about inserting another one into the equation.”
When asked about whether marijuana could be used as a source of revenue for the state, Schroder dismissed the idea.
“When you look at the state of Colorado, that actually went recreational, it’s not a silver bullet. It does generate some revenue, but not enough to get Kentucky out of its problems. I think the correct way of looking at things are to look at the states that are doing well, like Tennessee, Indiana, that started in the General Assembly, where you lower personal income tax and put it on services.”