The candidacy of Daniel Cameron is being challenged by a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jefferson Circuit Court.
Cameron, who was raised in Hardin County, is the Republican nominee for state attorney general on the Nov. 5 ballot. He is a former legal counsel to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.
“Our intent is to have this case heard before the election so that voters can be sure they cast ballots only for candidates that are actually qualified to represent the Commonwealth as its chief attorney,” said Ben Gastel, the attorney who filed the complaint, in a prepared statement.
The suit claims Cameron fails to meet a qualification in the Kentucky Constitution. As adopted in 1891, Section 92 of the Constitution lists one requirement for the attorney general. It said the officeholder “shall have been a practicing lawyer eight years before his election.”
Citing a similar objection unsuccessfully filed against Democrat Ben Chandler in 1995, when he was seeking to become attorney general, Cameron’s campaign manager expressed confidence the case quickly will be dismissed in court.
“This is a Hail Mary attempt by the Democrats to steal an election away from a supremely qualified candidate,” said Nick Weinstein of the Cameron campaign.
The lawsuit said Cameron, 33, received his license in October of 2011 before going to work as a clerk for U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove.
In an interview, Gastel said law clerks are barred from practicing law by ethics guidelines, which are a condition of employment. The lawsuit also states Kentucky courts have defined the practice of law as using legal knowledge to represent the needs of a client, which is not the same as assisting a judge.
Gastel, a partner in the firm of Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings, said passing the bar exam to earn a law license is not a “sufficient condition” to meet the constitutional requirement.
A 2004 graduate of John Hardin High School, Cameron’s bio said he graduated in 2011 from the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. After serving as a law clerk, he was McConnell’s legal counsel from 2015 to 2017 and joined the law firm of Frost Brown Todd in Louisville. He defeated Wil Schroder in the May primary to earn the GOP nomination.
In the 1995 case, a Franklin circuit judge dismissed the challenge against Chandler, who had been a lawyer for eight years but spent four serving in the elected position of state auditor.
Filed seven weeks before election day, the lawsuit names Joseph Jackson of Louisville as the plaintiff. Gastel said Jackson’s interest was to ensure all candidates who appear on the ballot are qualified.
“It is critical to the rule of law in the Commonwealth that only constitutionally qualified candidates for elected office appear on the ballot,” Gastel’s news release said.
Greg Stumbo, the Democrat seeking the attorney general’s post, frequently has challenged Cameron’s experience as being insufficient for the office. The former House speaker, who is 68, previously served as attorney general from 2004 to 2008.
During a campaign appearance Monday evening in Radcliff, Stumbo referred to the possibility of a suit being filed.
In a formal statement released by Weinstein, he accused Stumbo of being behind the legal action.
“It’s a farce and Stumbo’s a fool for wasting everyone’s time,” the statement said. It goes on to say, “The only way Stumbo can win is through corruption and he knows it.”
Meredith Scalos, a member of Stumbo’s staff, said he only “had heard rumblings about it” and the campaign was not a party to the case.
A spokeswoman for the Kentucky Democrat Party also said rumors of a pending challenge had circulated but the headquarters had no information prior to its filing.
Stumbo was not available for comment Tuesday.
Gastel said the suit was filed in Jefferson County because that’s Cameron’s county of residence.