It’s Election Day in Kentucky as Republicans head to the polls to choose their preferred nominee for Governor and Secretary of State.
At the top of the ticket, GOP candidates are vying for the chance to take on incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in the Bluegrass State’s top elected post.
It has become an expensive battle. Advertising spending has reportedly reached $13 million to blast messages across television, radio and digital, according to POLITICO, which cited data from the ad tracking firm AdImpact.
About half of the spending came from former U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, who has loaned her campaign more than $9 million of her own money since she launched her campaign. The independently wealthy Craft is married to coal magnate Joe Craft.
The race has already seen plenty of spending from outside groups, too, for both Kelly Craft and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the other front-runner in the race.
Outside spending came from Bluegrass Freedom Action, with more than $2 million spent supporting Cameron. The pro-Craft group Commonwealth PAC has dropped about $1.5 million.
Cameron’s own campaign has spent about $1 million on ads, while Ryan Quarles’ campaign has spent a little shy of $1 million backing the current Agriculture Commissioner in his gubernatorial bid.
Some Republicans are looking ahead to the November election with an eye toward who best can reclaim the Governorship — a job that the state’s dominant party has struggled to hold despite its strong showing in other races, according to The Associated Press.
The top contenders often sound alike on core GOP issues. They support gun rights, oppose abortion and demand more parental input in school policies. Those similarities have further elevated the question of who would run the best race against Beshear.
The Associated Press reported on a number of Republican voters who shared their preferences and thought processes on the race, with respondents largely making their picks based on who they think could best take on Beshear.
A 90-minute event on Kentucky Educational Television earlier this month gave voters a chance to learn more about the candidates’ platforms. The forum included Craft, Cameron and Quarles, as well as Somerset Mayor Alan Keck and retired lawyer Eric Deters.
Cameron offered more details about his support for Medicaid-related work requirements for able-bodied Kentucky adults — an issue likely to reignite during the General Election campaign. Cameron said Medicaid should be “a transitory program unless medically necessary or means tested,” according to The Associated Press.
Quarles and Craft sounded supportive of the Medicaid proposal as well.
“Whenever people are healthy, able-bodied Kentuckians, it actually takes away from those that truly do need benefits like the disabled and those that truly need help,” Quarles said.
Craft said Medicaid coverage should be “a pathway to take them from poverty to work.” Craft mentioned either work, study or community service standards for some recipients. Craft is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Also on the ballot Tuesday will be three Republicans for Kentucky Secretary of State. Incumbent Michael Adams is facing two challengers — former state Rep. Allen Maricle and Stephen Knipper, a previously unsuccessful candidate for the same post.
Adams has been outspoken in his opposition to those who continue denying the validity of the 2020 election. Not surprisingly, he’s facing opposition from exactly that kind of person in Knipper. Knipper opposes voting by mail, early voting and electronic voting machines. He also has support from MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the most vocal election deniers in the nation.
Both races could serve as a bellwether for the 2024 Presidential Election cycle, with Republicans hoping to show their might in reclaiming the Governor’s mansion and as a test of GOP loyalties in the Secretary of State race. If someone like Knipper is able to unseat a more moderate incumbent, it may well translate in other states come Presidential Primary time.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.