LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Three of the top Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidates took the stage Tuesday night in a televised debate, vocalizing their stances on issues that matter most to Kentucky voters.

Daniel Cameron, Ryan Quarles, and Eric Deters were present for the debate at WDKY-TV FOX 56 in Lexington. Fellow candidate Kelly Craft also qualified for participation but declined to attend.

Here are four defining moments from Tuesday’s debate:

1. Reactions to the Trump verdict and support of Trump

The three candidates seemed to have differing opinions when questioned about former President Donald Trump being found liable in his civil case with E. Jean Carroll.

Cameron admitted he lacked detailed knowledge about the case but reaffirmed that he was honored to receive Trump’s endorsement. Quarles, who acknowledged his inclination to support DeSantis, said his campaign is not reliant on endorsements from Republican officials but rather focuses on people across Kentucky.

Deters, an outspoken supporter of Trump, dismissed the verdict as “a bunch of balderdash.” He claimed to be the only candidate on stage who supported Trump and pledged to continue backing him in the future.

2. Abortion

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade precedent, Kentucky implemented a near-total abortion ban, with the sole exception being cases where the mother’s life is at risk.

Cameron reaffirmed his support of the Human Life Protection Act, continuing to distance himself from the Democratic stance on the topic.

Quarles began by asserting, “I value all life,” describing how he was punished by the House Democratic Caucus for trying to push pro-life legislation using discharge petitions. He also highlighted his endorsements from Kentucky Right to Life and Northern Kentucky Right to Life.

Quarles expressed his support for assisting families, pregnancy crisis centers, and fixing the “broken adoption and foster care system in Kentucky.”

Deters indicated his support for exceptions in cases of rape and incest up to 15 weeks, saying he would neither “sign nor push for any change in the current legislation in the state of Kentucky.”

3. Stance on gun control and gun violence

All three candidates oppose gun-control legislation, specifically red-flag laws, which allow courts to temporarily revoke firearm ownership for those believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Quarles, who started the “Raising Hope” program, acknowledged the pre-existing underlying issues in Kentucky. Raising Hope advocates for the mental health of Kentucky’s farmers and farm families. He argued that Beshear’s COVID-19 lockdowns merely “peeled another layer off the onion.” Quarles then emphasized the need to address mental health problems in the state.

Deters said the only preventative measure he would support is arming more citizens. He also urged corporate healthcare to construct more mental health facilities.

Cameron, who opposes all types of gun control, advocated for a Kentucky State Police post in Louisville. He criticized Beshear for inaction, saying he decided to “just sit on his hands while violent crime continues to grow exponentially in Louisville.”

4. Education

All three candidates have previously stated on record that teachers’ base salaries need to be increased.

Quarles, the son of a school teacher, said he wants to restore respect for the profession, including discipline reform in the classroom. He also said the problem extends beyond the classroom, citing a bus driver shortage.


Deters agreed that classroom discipline should be prioritized. He advocated for a focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic with less emphasis on test scores. He identified political correctness as a problem and called for its removal from schools.

Cameron shared Deters’ stance on focusing on reading, writing, and arithmetic as well as teaching accurate Black history. He also expressed wanting to eliminate “woke” curriculum and CRT curriculum from Kentucky classrooms.

Kentucky primary election 2023

The Kentucky primary election will take place on Tuesday, May 16, with in-person early voting running from Thursday, May 11, to Saturday, May 13.

To find out more regarding the upcoming election, including polling locations and voter identification requirements, click here.

The winner of the Republican seat for governor will go on to face the winner of the Democratic primary—Andy Beshear, Geoff Young, and Peppy Martin.