Three Gubernatorial Races Focus on Local Issues, Minimize Mention of Biden and Trump
Three gubernatorial races in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi are capturing attention as candidates strategically limit references to President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in their advertisements. This approach suggests that candidates perceive establishment figures within their own parties as potential weaknesses in their campaigns.
The upcoming November elections for governor in these states, which precede the presidential election by a year, have surprisingly seen limited mentions of Biden and Trump in the candidates’ ads. Despite the two men dominating national conversations, the focus in state races has shifted towards highlighting candidates’ policies on education, public safety, and the economy – three key areas that resonate with voters.
According to the New York Times, out of nearly 150 ads broadcasted across the three contests, only one mentioned Trump, while three mentioned Biden. The majority of these ads prioritize showcasing the candidates’ plans and proposals, rather than relying on the influence of the two prominent figures.
“The absence of Trump from ads indicates that Republicans may be distancing themselves from his policies and endorsements to appeal to centrist GOP and independent voters.”
One notable exception is an ad from Governor Andy Beshear’s (D-KY) reelection campaign, where he commends his administration for following in Trump’s footsteps by releasing prison inmates early. Despite Trump winning all three states by significant margins in the 2020 election, the lack of his presence in ads suggests that Republicans are seeking to broaden their appeal beyond the former president’s base.
Candidates running in the 2023 and 2024 races are keen to avoid a repeat of the midterm elections, where several Trump-endorsed candidates triumphed over their centrist primary opponents but ultimately lost to their Democratic challengers. Trump has already endorsed Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Louisiana Republican candidate Jeff Landry for the 2023 races. However, he has not yet endorsed Governor Tate Reeves (R-MS) for the 2023 election, indicating a potential shift in strategy.
Instead of focusing on national figures, an analysis by media tracking firm AdImpact reveals that attack advertisements highlighting local scandals and controversies are the most prevalent in these three races.
Kentucky: Crime Takes Center Stage
In Kentucky, crime has emerged as the most advertised issue, with 25% of ad spending in the state dedicated to addressing this concern in the past month, according to AdImpact. The School Freedom Fund released an ad in mid-August targeting Governor Beshear’s crime policies, specifically criticizing his commutation of 646 inmates’ sentences in 2020. This ad was part of a $2.9 million ad buy in the Lexington and Louisville markets.
Public safety is a consistent talking point for Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s campaign. He positions himself as “THE law enforcement candidate” and proudly highlights his endorsement from the state’s largest police union. This endorsement is particularly significant as the union had previously endorsed Beshear in 2019. Cameron attributes the change in endorsement to the “havoc” caused by Beshear’s administration’s perceived lack of tough-on-crime policies.
“I support tough prosecution, tough sentencing, and tough enforcement. Kentucky law enforcement knows I have their back. And they have mine. I’m Daniel Cameron. We need a governor who backs the blue, and that’s exactly the kind of governor I’ll be,” Cameron declares in one of his ads.
Education Takes Center Stage in Kentucky and Louisiana
Education is a top priority for candidates in both Kentucky and Louisiana, with nearly 1 in 5 ad dollars spent over the past 60 days focusing on this issue, according to AdImpact’s analysis.
A group affiliated with the Republican Governors Association called Kentucky Values released an ad stating, “The radical Left has declared war on parents, and Andy Beshear is with them.” On the other hand, Beshear praises teachers as “heroes” in one of his ads, promising to raise their pay and expand universal preschool. He also accuses Cameron of supporting voucher programs that divert tax dollars to private schools and wanting to cut pensions promised to Kentucky teachers.
In Mississippi, Governor Tate Reeves ran an ad highlighting his success in swiftly reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Jeff Landry released an ad criticizing the “woke” agenda in schools and pledging to prioritize a return to basics in education.
“Parents, not politicians, deserve control. Teachers should be respected,” Landry asserts in his ad.
Mississippi and Kentucky will hold their general elections on November 7, while Louisiana’s election will take place on November 18.
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