LOUISVILLE – The GOP Gubernatorial intrigue cut the salty ham and long-winded speeches at the annual Kentucky Farm Bureau breakfast.
The event, which Mitch McConnell called Kentucky’s version of the State of the Union, only better, drew out a veritable who’s who of Republicans both announced and considering a race for the nomination to challenge Andy Beshear next year.
Former Gov. Matt Bevin, R-Kentucky, appeared at the event side-stepping questions from reporters on a potential run in 2023. It was the second such event for Bevin in as many days, he attended the Jefferson County Lincoln Day Dinner the previous evening. Speculation on a potential run from Bevin has run rampant this year, and well into last year, as Kentucky Fried Politics first reported.
With a narrow loss to Beshear in 2019, Bevin could potentially win a Republican primary if he runs next year due to the slim margins likely needed for victory in a crowded field.
“Any candidate that enters the primary is going to change the dynamics of the race… As a party we have to become more comfortable with primaries now that we are the majority party,” said Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles who entered the race earlier this year.
Former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft is all but an announced candidate in the race, and for the second year in a row, she and her husband joined Luther Deaton with Central Bank to purchase the state fair prize ham. This year they bought the ham for a record $5 million.
Craft spoke to reporters before the event. She was focused on buying the ham for charity and not on politics, but when pressed she used a University of Kentucky reference to discuss her potential ambitions.
“Do you think I’m going to share with you my game plan? Do you think Coach Cal or Coach Payne are going to share their game plan with anyone? No,” Craft told reporters.
Sitting next to Craft at breakfast was state Sen. Max Wise, who many speculate will join her on a ticket. Multiple sources say Craft will announce her run with Wise as her running mate on Sept. 7, in the state Capitol.
“Max and Heather are close friends of ours and I think the world of them,” Craft said.
Another Craft family friend, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles attended the event as part of his official duties. He shared his campaign strategy which has already garnered an endorsement from 151 elected officials.
“My campaign strategy is going to be pretty simple it’s going to focus on old-fashioned grassroots networking across all parts of the commonwealth,” he said. “I mentioned earlier we’re going to hit all 120 counties and every Dollar General store once.”
In addition to Craft, Quarles, and Bevin. Attorney General Daniel Cameron, State Rep. Savannah Maddox, and Auditor Mike Harmon small-talked with attendees and enjoyed breakfast at the event. Somerset Mayor Alan Keck was also in attendance. Keck is expected to announce his run in December.
Harmon thinks the large field will work to his advantage and he thinks he can surprise everyone.
“Twenty-five percent might win it, 100,000 votes might win it.”