GEORGETOWN – Weeks after a first announcing and 11 months before the GOP primary Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles officially kicked off his gubernatorial campaign in sweltering 90-degree temperatures in front of the Scott County Courthouse.
Surrounded by approximately 250 supporters, which included a grade-school teacher and multiple elected officials from around Kentucky, Quarles kicked off his campaign on Kentucky’s 230th birthday in his hometown with a pitch to send a rural Kentuckian to Frankfort.
The 9th generation Kentuckian attempted to draw contrast to Gov. Andy Beshear saying unlike Beshear’s father who is the former governor, Quarles is the son of a tobacco farmer. It would not be the first time Quarles invoked Beshear, though he was careful not to mention him by name.
“Our executive leadership has divided us further when we should be working together. We have seen a governor ignore bipartisanship in Frankfort, and veto nearly everything that comes across his desk,” he said. “We have seen a Governor shut down schools longer than necessary, causing educational harm to students. We have seen a Governor shut down businesses repeatedly and ignore tens of thousands of Kentuckians with pleas for unemployment.”
“And most egregious we have seen a governor send state troopers to our churches on Easter Sunday to harass Christians – violating our Constitutional rights.”
The two-term Agriculture Commissioner laid out his agenda if elected. Promising to finish a statewide broadband project, eliminate the personal income tax, and address violent crime.
He invoked the name of Trump once in his speech when discussing the GOP primary. Quarles said he would run a “people-first campaign.”
“If President Trump taught us anything it is this – those who have been ignored by politicians or looked down upon by the ruling Liberal elite will no longer be ignored,” he said. “Because we vote too.”
Quarles promised a “spirited campaign with my friends” in the primary. Statewide elected Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Auditor Mike Harmon have both launched their campaigns. Northern Kentucky lawyer Eric Deters has filed paperwork to run, Rep Savannah Maddox is expected to announce her candidacy next week, and there are still lingering questions about a run from former Ambassador Kelly Craft.
“I will have a campaign that has a positive and uplifting message and not be a campaign that is a race to the bottom,” Quarles said. “I will be a gentleman in this race because that’s how my momma taught me to be.”
Wednesday’s announcement was capped off with a list of 53 GOP officials endorsing Quarles in the race and was followed by a fundraising event at the Evans Orchard & Cider Mill.
Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge pushed back on Quarles’ announcement for governor in a prepared statement.
“Andy Beshear is one of the most popular governors in the country because he is creating a better Kentucky for all of our families, already announcing more than 33,000 jobs and shattering economic development records,” Elridge said. “Just yesterday, Gov. Beshear announced more than $2 million in investments in Scott County to give families more safe and quality places to spend time together. Despite his more than a decade as a self-serving and self-promoting politician, Kentuckians would struggle to list a single accomplishment from Ryan Quarles.”
“Quarles bungled his rollout for governor, showing he isn’t even ready to run for governor, much less serve as governor,” Elridge continued. “If Quarles emerges from what increasingly looks like it is going to be an extreme, nasty, and expensive Republican primary, Kentucky voters will have a clear choice next November.”