The first gubernatorial ticket in what is expected to be a crowded 2023 Republican primary has been set.
Kelly Craft introduced state Sen. Max Wise as her running mate before a group of the senator’s family and at a reception Wednesday night in his hometown of Campbellsville.
“When I joined the race for governor, I knew there were a few non-negotiable, absolutely, essential qualities to look for,” Craft said. “Character was first. God. Family. Strong, Kentucky strong values. Patriotic. Trustworthy. It had to be a person who inspires respect. Someone who we can place our full trust. The first name that leaped to my mind was Max Wise.”
Wise had been considering his own bid for the Republican nomination but changed his mind when Craft, the former ambassador to Canada and the United Nations under former President Donald Trump, approached him about running together.
The two have talked on several occasions and Wise said he came away impressed with Craft, who is married to billionaire Joe Craft.
“I’ve seen Kelly bring healing to flood-ravaged communities in Eastern Kentucky,” he said. “She dropped everything she was doing to clothe the needy, feed the hungry and pray with the lonesome.”
He noted her leadership qualities when she served as an UN ambassador saying, “she looked dictators in the eye and didn’t blink.”
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Wise also espoused his rural background and the challenges they face.
“We had hard discussions when times were tough — like when the local Fruit of the Loom plant closed, families were laid off and paychecks were wiped out,” he said. “I saw firsthand the impact that the factory closing had on my dad and this entire region”.
Wise has served in the state Senate since 2015 and serves as chairman of the education committee. He is also a professor at Campbellsville University.
There are least five other announced candidates in the primary to decide who will challenge Democratic incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear in November 2023. They are Agriculture Secretary Ryan Quarles, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Auditor Michael Harmon, state Rep. Savannah Maddox and Eric Deters, a former attorney.
Trump has endorsed Cameron in the race. Congressman James Comer is backing Craft, while U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie threw his support behind Maddox.
Under legislation passed in 2020, gubernatorial candidates who win their respective May primaries next year have until Aug. 8 of next year to select a running partner for lieutenant governor.