The 2019 Kentucky gubernatorial election was one of the most substantial elections in Kentucky’s history. Voters tossed out the top of the ticket, electing Democratic candidate Andy Beshear and then gave every single Constitutional Office to Republicans.
Republicans have been salivating to take back the governor’s mansion, and in doing so take on Gov. Beshear in 2023.
The early Republican field filed into West Kentucky to offer up their vision for the Commonwealth two years before the GOP gubernatorial primary at an event headlined by one of the potential candidates in 2023.
Former Ambassador Kelly Craft did not speak on Saturday at the Fancy Farm Picnic benefitting St. Jerome’s Parish, but she did snag a prime gig as the keynote for the Night Before Fancy Farm GOP Dinner in Calvert, City.
Craft has been introducing herself to Republican voters across the state, though she has yet to officially announce her candidacy. While Craft’s predecessor at the United Nations, Nikki Haley garnered major attention it’s Craft who seemed missing in action on the national stage, and now she’s home to talk about her time in the United Nations and bolster her name ahead of the Republican primary.
Craft split her speech to Republican faithful at a Friday night pre-Fancy Farm event focusing on her time working with Trump as the UN Ambassador and making a pitch to replace Gov. Beshear with a Republican.
“I am alarmed of the politician that is currently in Frankfort,” Craft said. “Under the cover of this pandemic, they have been shrinking our freedoms and assuming a greater and greater control over our daily lives.”
Jumping between comments against President Joe Biden and Gov. Andy Beshear, Craft continued her speech offering a line that sounded a lot like a campaign theme.
“I don’t have any regrets about jumping into the real arena,” Craft read. “Sitting behind that placard in the General Assembly [of the United Nations] and in the security council that reads the United States – protecting America’s taxpayers, protecting Kentucky’s taxpayers, demanding accountability, and demanding transparency. It will make me for the future that I did.”
“You can leave Kentucky for a little while, but Kentucky never leaves you,” she continued. America, Kentucky is America. America is Kentucky.”
After the speech, Craft offered time to those in attendance to ask questions, the lone question from the audience was about her biggest mistake. Craft responded with an anecdote about a meeting with President Trump and the Egyptian President about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), that caught her flatfooted.
“We just met with the Pakistani leader, and he was complaining about this water and all this, and then in comes the President of Egypt, and he starts using, he says, you know, I’ve very concerned about the GERD,” she said. “And I thought the GERD was like a fighter jet or something, but it turns out it’s a dam.”
Trump promised the Egyptians that Ambassador Craft could take care of the issue for the Egyptians the next day.
“I thought, okay, I have no idea,” she said. “So the whole time I’m thinking it’s a fighter jet, and I thinking surely I can get Treasury or somebody to release a couple fighter jets and I could get those up there, but it wasn’t – it was about the dam.”
The dinner had all the hallmarks of what seems to be the 2023 Republican primary field for governor. In addition to Craft, state Auditor Mike Harmon prowled the tables, true to form sharing the same joke with anyone who would listen – in case you haven’t heard it – he’s 10-years older than the rest of the Constitutional officers, so he needed to jump in the gubernatorial fray early, you know with bedtimes and all. Harmon would go on to tell a version of the joke from the stage at Fancy Farm.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, and state Rep. Savannah Maddox all took time to work the main seating area before the dinner started. Keck and Maddox did not speak at the event, as only constitutional officers, local elected leaders, and Craft were invited to speak. But they were recognized from the podium.
In addition to the BBQ, Harmon and Quarles both had red meat to offer those in attendance at the dinner. Quarles said he’s “frustrated” by Kentucky’s current leadership, and COVID restrictions – a common theme from many speakers.
Quarles told the crowd, which included former Senate President and current Judge David Williams, “We will have a conservative governor in 2023.”