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    Just Sayin’

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    “A star is born,” Donald Trump gushed (three times!) on Election Eve 2019 about then-candidate for Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron. A day later, the 33-year-old Frost Brown Todd lawyer and Mitch McConnell mentee showed he was worth gushing about — pounding former state AG and Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo by 15.5 percentage points — becoming the first African-American to independently win a statewide election (outgoing Lieutenant Gov. Jenean Hampton ran on Matt Bevin’s ticket) and the first Republican in 70 years to gain the office.

    With straight-out-of-central-casting good looks and two years of grooming as legal counsel to McConnell, advising the wily old codger in squelching the 2016 Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland and steamrolling opposition to Neil Gorsuch in 2017, the Elizabethtown-reared University of Louisville undergrad and law-school alum (he even played on the Cards’ football team in his freshman year) appears to have best-and-brightest potential for Kentucky’s foreseeable future.

    I don’t say this lightly and I don’t mean to flatter. Cameron’s politics — nativist, anti-abortion, anti-gun-control, pro-border-wall — are far from my own, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that his present fealty to Trump scares me some. But his upsides are impressive: He’s smart as a whip; he appears genuinely and emotionally driven to solve the state’s prescription-opioid and child-abuse crises; he backed Matt Bevin but wasted no time agreeing to investigate the former governor’s scandalous post-election pardons; he’s got a good sense of humor; and he’s an adept speaker.

    About that last quality: I was half-listening to a TV news report back in August when I heard a voice I could have sworn was Jack Kennedy’s, talking about “the party of Lincoln.” The timbre, the cadence, the inflections, even some of the diphthongic vowel couplings sounded Kennedy-esque. Well, it was the Fancy Farm speech of Cameron, who had obviously honed his oratorical chops, knowing when to stretch out words, when to clip their endings, when to go higher in pitch and when to fall off.

    I was transfixed at the same time by his unabashed devotion to hyper-conservative principles, his mouth set in a half-smile and his eyes practically dancing as he spoke. But we should pray for a softer side.

    “The last four AGs were more aspiring governors than they were law-enforcement officials,” Cameron told the crowd. “I’m running for attorney general and nothing else.” Let’s see where his limits are set in four years. 

     

    This originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Illustration by Shae Goodlett, shaedraws.com

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