Politics

A judge says that Republican attorney general candidate Daniel Cameron will appear on the November ballot, ruling against a lawsuit that claimed Cameron did not have the required years of experience for the office.

Louisville resident Joseph Jackson filed the lawsuit last month, arguing that the two years Cameron spent as a clerk for a federal judge should not count as years spent as a practicing attorney.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Barry Willett ruled against Jackson in the lawsuit, saying that by Election Day, Cameron will have the requisite eight years of experience required by the Kentucky Constitution.

“There is no meaningful distinction between the professional responsibilities Mr. Cameron performed as a federal judicial law clerk and his responsibilities as legal counsel for Senate Majority Leader McConnell. Both positions involved ‘services rendered involving legal knowledge or legal advice,’” Willett wrote.

Cameron is a protégé of McConnell and worked for him between 2015 and 2017. Since then he has worked as a corporate lawyer for Frost Brown Todd in Louisville.

If elected, Cameron would be the second African American in state history to win a statewide election in Kentucky — the first being current Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton.

The Kentucky Bar Association admitted Cameron on Oct 21, 2011 — a little more than eight years before Election Day on Nov. 5.

In a statement, Cameron said he was “thrilled to put this frivolous lawsuit behind us” and claimed that his Democratic opponent Greg Stumbo was behind the challenge.

“It’s sad that Greg Stumbo stooped to this level. He can’t win an election straight up so he tried and failed to cheat us off the ballot,” Cameron wrote in the statement. “For someone who talks about experience all the time it is funny that Stumbo and his cronies don’t understand the law.”

In a statement, Stumbo denied Cameron’s claim that he was involved in the lawsuit, but said that the challenge underscores Cameron’s lack of experience.

“I am not a party to this litigation and had nothing to do with the lawsuit, however, now Mr. Cameron admitted under oath how little law he has practiced,” Stumbo wrote.

“Kentucky voters deserve a candidate with decades of legal experience in real courtrooms, trying real cases at the highest levels. I have spent my life becoming a seasoned trial attorney in the courtrooms of this state on behalf of Kentuckians.  My opponent has never even prosecuted a traffic ticket citation.”

Stumbo is 67 and has also tried to make 33-year-old Cameron’s age and experience an issue in this year’s race.

Stumbo is a former House Speaker who previously served as attorney general from 2004 to 2008.

Sean Rankin, executive director of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, said in a statement that despite the ruling, Cameron has a “real lack of legal experience.”

“This process put a microscope on Cameron’s limited career with no experience in court. Voters took notice — and what they see is someone who could barely make it onto the ballot and someone who lacks enough experience to do the job of Attorney General,” Rankin wrote.

In his defense against the lawsuit, Cameron’s compared it to a 1995 challenge by Republican Will T. Scott, who sued to try and have Democrat Ben Chandler removed from the ballot in that year’s race for attorney general.

Scott unsuccessfully argued that Chandler didn’t have the required years of experience because he didn’t practice law while serving as Kentucky’s state auditor. Chandler remained on the ballot and won the race.

Republican Party of Kentucky spokesperson Mike Lonergan praised the ruling, saying Cameron is an “experienced attorney with a strong record of accomplishment” and also claimed that Stumbo was behind the lawsuit.

“We’re pleased to see the judge ruled that this election should be decided by the voters,” Lonergan wrote. “Greg Stumbo and his allies know they can’t win at the polls so they’ve turned to dirty political tricks like this absurd lawsuit. Kentucky voters have already rejected Stumbo before and we can retire him and his underhanded schemes once and for all on Nov. 5.”

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.