Politics & Government

‘Deadbeat dad’ and ‘liar.’ Personal attacks swirl in Kentucky attorney general race.

The race for Kentucky attorney general is getting nasty.

Republican Daniel Cameron, a Louisville attorney who is making his first bid for public office, published a video online late Thursday that questions the morals and political positions of his Democratic opponent, former House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

The 60-second video, titled “Who Is Greg Stumbo?,” refers to Stumbo as “a deadbeat dad.” It alludes to news stories about Stumbo being charged with drunken driving in 1991 (the charge was later reduced to public alcohol intoxication) and a prostitution scandal in the Capitol that occurred when Stumbo was House majority leader.

It says Stumbo is “not pro-life” and supports driver’s license for illegal immigrants and contains parts of Stumbo’s much-discussed speech in November 2015 to Democrats about President Obama and then-presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton after big Republican election wins in the state.

In that speech, Stumbo said he believed in the “core values” of Obama and referred to Clinton as a “lady jockey” on an Arkansas traveler horse that would come to Kentucky the following year to help Democrats rebuild their party.

“Surely we can do better,” the ad says before showing Cameron.

“Daniel Cameron is just a liar,” said Stumbo, who was attorney general from 2004 to 2008.

During his tenure as the state’s chief law-enforcement official, Stumbo headed an investigation into the hiring practices of Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher which resulted in the indictment of Fletcher and many of his aides. The governor pardoned his aides and the charges against him were dismissed by agreement with the prosecutors.

Republican leaders want to make sure Stumbo is not attorney general again. Cameron has the backing of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville. Cameron provided legal counsel for McConnell in Washington.

The race between Stumbo and Cameron heated up after Stumbo posted a 30-second video on his Facebook page on July 17 titled “Kentucky Values.”

It shows Stumbo standing in front of the Old Beaver Church of Regular Baptist in Floyd County that he attended as a child with his grandparents. He said he learned “family values here, about how to treat people and care for others.”

He said he carried those values with him “all my life and as your next attorney general, I won’t forget them.”

As attorney general, he said, he wants to finish his legal cases against opioid distributors. ‘I want to make those guys pay for what they did.”

The Stumbo video lists his wife, Mary Karen Stumbo, as his treasurer. It made no mention of Cameron.

On Monday, Cameron, who is divorced, sent an email about the Stumbo ad to supporters, saying “it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.”

He said Stumbo “brags” about his Kentucky values. “Which ones are those exactly?” asked Cameron.

Cameron proceeded to list several questions about Stumbo’s morals and political stances.

He first called Stumbo “a deadbeat dad,” a label some put on Stumbo in 2001 when a Fayette Circuit Court lawsuit accused Stumbo, who then was House majority leader, of reneging on an agreement to pay child support, medical bills and other costs for a boy he allegedly fathered out of wedlock in 1988.

In 2003, the mother said a DNA test showed a 99.999 percent likelihood that Stumbo was the father.

The case was settled. Stumbo said in an interview Thursday that no court ever determined he was delinquent in child support.

“My political opponents have been making outrageous charges against me for years,” said Stumbo. “I challenge Daniel Cameron to prove them. None of these things he is talking about are true in total. I challenge him to prove them.”

Cameron also said Stumbo was arrested for drunken driving in Floyd County in 1991 and tried to blame it on someone else and “was caught up in a prostitution scandal” when the late legislative staffer Kent Downey was busted for running a prostitution and gambling ring.

Stumbo said a state police investigation of the drunken driving case showed he was not driving the car. The drunken-driving charge was reduced and Stumbo pleaded guilty to a reduced alcohol intoxication charge. He had to pay a $100 fine plus $47.50 in court costs.

Stumbo was never charged with any wrongdoing in the Downey scandal. Stumbo and Downey were friends and Downey wrote checks to pay for the house Stumbo and several other lawmakers rented during legislative sessions and they would reimburse him.

Cameron also said Stumbo supports abortion and backs the values of Obama and Hillary Clinton

Stumbo said his religion teaches him abortion is wrong but he has to follow the law. He said he cast several pro-life votes as a legislator.

“It is reprehensible that Republicans are using religion as a political weapon,” he said. “I think Democrats should share their Christianity more. I’m an old-fashioned, faith-of-our-fathers Democrat. The Bible doesn’t say Democrats or Republicans.”

Stumbo acknowledged that he is not a perfect person.

“Christians aren’t perfect,” he said. “I’ve made mistakes but I know how much I care for this state and I know I’m the most qualified to work as attorney general on behalf of all Kentuckians.”

Stumbo said he has known Bill and Hillary Clinton for a long time and that, while he does “not agree with Obama on many things, I do agree with him on such core values as protecting workers and lending a helping hand to people who need it.”

The veteran politician also said he is researching whether Cameron is qualified to be Kentucky attorney general.

He said the office holder is required to be a practicing attorney for eight years.

Cameron said in an interview Friday morning that he graduated from the University of Louisville law school in May 2011 and has been a licensed attorney since October of that year.

His campaign website said his professional career has consisted of serving as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove; working in private practice at Stites & Harbison in Louisville; serving as McConnell’s legal counsel in Washington, D.C.; and returning to private practice at Frost Brown Todd in Louisville, where he’s been since June 2017.

“By the time of the November election, I will have been a practicing attorney for more than eight years,” Cameron said. “That’s another contrast between Mr. Stumbo and me. I understand the law.”

Stumbo said Cameron has been a law clerk in the last eight years. “Does that count as being a practicing attorney?” Stumbo asked.

Cameron also has been noting that Stumbo supported a bill to allow illegal immigrants to legally obtain driver’s licenses.

Stumbo said the bill, which was sponsored by another House Democrat, was designed to give law-enforcement officials more information about immigrants.

“It required they provide their real name, country of origin, address there and in the United States to start a database for law enforcement, something the federal government should have been doing,” Stumbo said. The bill never got out of committee.

Cameron said he can document all his charges against Stumbo.

“I stand by all my comments about Mr. Stumbo,” he said. “These things have been written about. Nothing really new here. I believe I’m the candidate who can handle this job and I’m trying to show all Kentuckians that is the case.”

Cameron and Stumbo are scheduled to speak Aug. 3 at the annual Fancy Farm political picnic in Graves County.

Jack Brammer is Frankfort bureau chief for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has covered politics and government in Kentucky since May 1978. He has a Master’s in communications from the University of Kentucky and is a native of Maysville, Ky.
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