A new poll Thursday on Kentucky’s Republican primary race for governor shows Attorney General Daniel Cameron still leading the pack of candidates, though Kelly Craft is gaining ground and cutting into his margin.
The survey by Emerson College and Lexington station WDKY of900 very likely GOP primary voters shows Cameron leading with 30%, while Craft is in second with 24% and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles is in third with 15%.
The survey is the first independent polling of the competitive GOP primary since Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy in January found Cameron with a huge lead — receiving the support of 39% of respondents, while Craft and Quarles trailed with 13% and 8%, respectively.
While the polling was conducted by two different firms with different methodology, Craft’s apparent improvement comes after dominating the field of candidates in TV advertising in the first four months of this year — from both her own campaign and a PAC supporting her.
Craft’s campaign and Commonwealth PAC have spent more than $4 million on advertising, with much of those recent ads targeting Cameron with criticism over his previous involvement with a criminal justice reform group and his action regarding a West Virginia coal plant.
Cameron had a much later start on the airwaves, with his campaign launching its first TV ads this week, while Kentucky Freedom Action — a PAC supporting Cameron — spent more than $1 million on TV ads in the past two weeks, highlighting his endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
At a campaign event Wednesday night in Louisville, Cameron cited that Trump endorsement as he expressed confidence in his lead over Craft.
“Kelly Craft spent six months before she jumped in the race telling people she was going to get the Trump endorsement,” Cameron told reporters. “You all probably know that as well. I got the Trump endorsement, and she’s been in freefall ever since.”
The campaign of Quarles has not yet started airing TV ads, but he still improved by 7 percentage points over the poll from January.
In a tweet about the poll, Quarles wrote that it “is even more evidence that we are in a great position to win the GOP nomination.”
“Without a single dime spent on media, our strong grassroots support, 120 county approach, and 235+ endorsements show our own conservative brand is working.”
There are 12 candidates vying for the GOP nomination to take on Gov. Andy Beshear, the presumed Democratic nominee, in November’s general election.
The poll found former attorney Eric Deters with 6%, while state Auditor Mike Harmon had less than 2% and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck was under 1%. The poll also found that 20% of respondents were undecided.
This story will be updated.
Reach reporter Joe Sonka at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka.