GOP candidates for governor woo voters in Wilmore

Published 2:32 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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The Wilmore Municipal Center welcomed Republican candidates for governor or their representative last Thursday evening for a forum hosted by the Jessamine County Republican Women.

The room was packed with locals from Wilmore, Nicholasville, and the greater Jessamine County area and four Kentucky House of Representatives members who had just finished the 2023 Kentucky Legislative session.

Although the candidates are ultimately running against each other, nearly everyone expressed respect for one another. The audience and organizers did not seem to recognize the forum as a fully competitive environment—at the beginning and end of the event, Dorothy Van Epps, the president of Jessamine County Republican Women, expressed to the crowd that the ultimate goal for this election is to beat incumbent Governor Andy Beshear.

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Each candidate was allowed to speak for five minutes to introduce themselves and their campaign to the crowd.

Daniel Cameron’s representative Gus Harbert was the only invitee unable to attend the forum, and Johnny Ray Rice did not attend.

Jacob Clark
Clark refers to himself as an “inventor, an idea man” who is “running to nullify regulations and laws on our guns. I strongly believe in a free country like America. There is no such thing as an illegal gun.”

He previously ran for a seat in the Kentucky State House in 2022 but lost to the Republican incumbent. Also, like the Republican candidate for State Treasurer Andrew Cooperrider, Clark filed a petition to impeach Beshear based on his pandemic executive orders that were ultimately dismissed.

Kelly Craft

Craft was represented at the forum by her Political Regional Director, Joe Moore, who touted her diverse experience in the public and private sectors.

Before gaining experience as a former U.S. United Nations ambassador to Canada in the Trump administration, Kelly was the head of her consulting firm, Kelly G. Knight LLC, until May 2016.

Moore ran through Craft’s campaign points succinctly: To fight the fentanyl problem, she wants to use the death penalty against drug dealers.

Moore said Craft would oppose any infringement on “our second amendment rights” and that she would like to “beat down Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)” and highlight Kentucky’s natural resource, coal.

Her husband, Joe Craft, is the Chief Executive Officer of Alliance Resource Partners, which sells steam coal to major domestic and international utilities and industrial users.

Bob DeVore

DeVore highlighted a few major issues he’s running on. He called for more assistance for senior citizens and better education.

“Bring God back into our school systems, bring back historical documents when it comes to the Mayflower Compact, and when it comes to the U.S. Constitution,” Devore said about another issue dear to his heart.

According to the Courier-Journal, DeVore is from Louisville and has run unsuccessfully for half a dozen offices in Jefferson County.

David Cooper

Hailing from Independence, Kentucky, Cooper is a military veteran and is “not a career politician.”

He told the crowd that he has prayed to God for the last three years for a chance to be governor so he can do the “Lord’s work.”

Part of this work he would do if elected is to teach children in schools what an annual percentage rate is and how to fill out a check. He also mentioned an idea of his to build a beef processing plant in Kentucky so that the processing labor does not have to be outsourced to a different state.

Eric Deters

Deters said he is the only candidate in Kentucky who supported former President Donald Trump through today. He went on to say that he is anti-establishment and pro-union, and he can” out-people” Andy Beshear.

Deeters retired from practicing law in 2014 after his Kentucky law license was suspended.

Michael Harmon
After introducing himself, Harmon said that he opposed a school’s discussion on mandating Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for students —HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cancer.

Harmon is serving his second term as state auditor.

He previously served 13 years as a state legislator.

Alan Keck
Keck is the mayor of Somerset. He is for pro-family policies, public safety through funding police departments and a non-bureaucratic government.

Dennis Ormerod
Ormerod is from Louiseville. He said his motivation for this race is to lift up everybody in society.

Ryan Quarles
Quarles is serving his second term as Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner.
“I will be a governor that will stand up and support our men and women in law enforcement.” Quarles said, “I’m against vaccine mandates. We need to stop paying people to watch Netflix.”
Quarles said he wants to turn eastern Kentucky into a nationally recognized tourist destination.

Robbie Smith
Smith is a math teacher from Madison County. He is for eliminating all taxes, supporting trade schools and removing the criminal penalty for any formerly incarcerated people who have recovered from substance use disorder because “they need to get back to work.”

The voters weigh in

Before and after the forum, attendees were able to converse with candidates, and many took advantage of that.

Brandon Wides lives in Nicholasville and decided to attend the forum to learn more about his options in the primary. He was able to have conversations with most of the candidates that he said have been both negative and positive, and he particularly enjoyed Cooper’s idea of the beef processing plant.

“I still am undecided. It may be an election-day decision for me,” Wides said.

Mary Majella Morgan lives near Brannon Crossing and decided to come to learn more about the candidates.

“The only thing I’ve seen are commercials that Kelly Craft has done, and I just know Cameron from being attorney general.” She said she didn’t even know there were so many candidates until she walked into the room that evening,” Morgan said. “I think we have a good panel of Republicans, so of course, I’ll support whoever wins the primary, but I was impressed with a lot of them.”