A Wise Choice? Will Kelly Craft Pick State Senator as Running Mate?

As Fancy Farm takes place on Saturday a majority of the Republican candidates for governor will face off from the stage, but one potential candidate will be missing from the bunch.

Former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft is expected to enter the GOP primary race for governor in September, and numerous sources say she could be announcing her running mate at the same time.

According to a dozen sources over the last month, Craft is contemplating announcing her run for governor with state Senator Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who also considered a run for governor.

Wise is the chairman of the Senate Education Committee in Frankfort and is a friend and close confidant of Congressman James Comer. During the 2021 Fancy Farm, Comer took to the stage to say Kentuckians would be hearing more about Craft and Wise.

“There are two names that I think everyone in Kentucky is going to be hearing a lot about all across Kentucky in 2023, and those are Ambassador Kelly Craft, and my very good friend state Sen. Max Wise from Campbellsville,” Comer said. 

A change to the state statutes means none of the primary contenders have to form a slate of governor and lieutenant governor. No other candidates in the race for the GOP gubernatorial primary have announced a running mate.

Wise told Kentucky Fried Politics on Thursday that he is waiting to see when an announcement comes from Ambassador Craft.

“I’m honored to be in the conversation to be her running mate,” Wise said. “I think she’s going to be a very credible opponent in that race. So I’m humbled more than anything to even be thought about for a position like that.”

Craft is expected to hire the same campaign strategists and consultants that led Republican Glenn Youngkin to a victory in Virginia. Youngkin used public education as a critical issue in the Virginia general election, and the choice of Wise could be an indication a similar strategy could be forming in Kentucky.

Auditor Mike Harmon, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, and Rep. Savannah Maddox have all declared for the primary race.