May 8, 2023 - Kelly Craft is running for governor, but if you watch television you probably already knew that. The campaign has blitzed the airwaves longer and more often than any other candidate for governor in what’s proven to be the most expensive gubernatorial primary in state history.
Craft’s political strategy is to dominate the airwaves, stake out important issues in advertising, bring down presumed frontrunner Attorney General Daniel Cameron and meet voters in intimate settings across the state. At every stop, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada and the United Nations emphasizes one-on-one time with voters and makes a point to thank any staff present at an establishment. She’s also set herself apart as one of the few candidates to have declared a running mate in Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, a prominent state legislator and close ally of U.S. Congressman Jamie Comer, KY-01.
On the issues, she’s run a campaign particularly emphasizing alleged “wokeness” in schools, the drug epidemic and Kentucky’s coal economy.
Craft has conducted a “kitchen table” tour across the state in the months leading up to her campaign, bringing along conservative star supporters like Comer and former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines.
With relatively low name I.D. heading into the race — she was appointed to her posts and has never run for office in Kentucky — Craft introduced herself to voters as a down-to-earth Kentuckian from rural Barren County, in the South-Central region of the state. Craft has largely self-funded her campaign, giving it more than $9 million from her own pocketbook. A political action committee (PAC) supporting her was mostly bankrolled by her husband, billionaire coal entrepreneur and philanthropist Joe Craft.
Kelly Craft on the Issues
Who is Supporting Craft’s Bid?
The top giver to the Kelly Craft campaign is the candidate herself. She’s loaned her campaign more than $9.2 million. However, before the first finance report of this year, Craft had received donations from Kentuckians at a higher rate than anyone else in the race. A political fundraiser dating back to at least former president George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign, Craft has connections across the state.
Craft also has some supporters in elected office, including one member of GOP leadership in House Majority Whip Jason Nemes, R-Louisville. The candidate has also hosted fundraisers with several individuals worth vast amounts of money, including local high-dollar donors as well as several from across the country.
A PAC cropped up in recent months backing Craft’s candidacy. In April, a finance report revealed that Joe Craft was the primary funder of the PAC, along with others in the coal industry. The report prompted questions from the state campaign finance agency, as state law bars PACs and campaigns from coordinating with eachother.
Among Craft’s campaign donors in the latest report were notable rival of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Sen. Rick Scott and prominent horse industry power player Bill Carstanjen, among many others.
What Craft’s Opponents are Saying:
Craft has mostly faced fire from Cameron’s campaign and a PAC supporting his candidacy. That PAC, Bluegrass Freedom Action, sent out a text criticizing Craft’s “ultra-rich” background and has released an ad bashing Craft for not getting Trump’s endorsement and for controversy surrounding her “empty chair” ad.
At a campaign event, Cameron said Craft “spent 6 months before she jumped in the race telling people she was going to get the Trump endorsement… I got the Trump endorsement and she’s been in freefall ever since.”
Why Craft Says She’s the Best to Take on Beshear:
When asked why she’s the best to beat Beshear, Craft emphasized her work ethic.
“My work ethic I learned very early on as a child watching my mom and dad... that’s why I’m certain (I’ll beat Beshear). Then also the work ethic I displayed in working to elect president Trump. That work ethic is the reason he appointed me to be ambassador to the U.N., to Canada,” Craft said.
She also highlighted the fact that she’s made a bigger deal out of issues like the U.S.-Mexico border and the drug epidemic than Beshear.