KENTUCKY — On Tuesday, May 16, 2023, Kentucky voters will decide on a host of statewide offices, including who they think should occupy the governor’s mansion in Frankfort.

In the gubernatorial primary, incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear (D) faces a crowded field of 12 Republicans vying to unseat him, not to mention two challengers from his own party.

So, who all is in the running for governor of Kentucky? Here’s a look at all 15 candidates looking to lead the Commonwealth.


Gov. Andy Beshear (Incumbent)

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, right, speaks with the media as Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, rear, listens during a press conference at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Andy Beshear was elected the 63rd governor of Kentucky in 2019. The son of former Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear’s first term has been defined by a slew of crises—including deadly natural disasters in western and eastern Kentucky and the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Beshear served as attorney general before pursuing the governor’s office. After a contentious race, he squeaked by former Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in 2019 by just over 5,000 votes.

A rare spot of blue in increasingly deep-red Kentucky, Beshear has maintained the title of “most popular Democratic governor in the U.S.” in recent months.

The incumbent governor often flexes achievements to Kentucky’s economy and infrastructure seen under his watch. Republican lawmakers have rebuked his claims, asserting that economic successes are because of their supermajorities in the House and Senate.

Peppy Martin

Martin was the unsuccessful Republican nominee in the 1999 gubernatorial election. She’s now running as a Democrat.

She advocates for legalizing marijuana, state-run casino gambling and eliminating the income tax, according to her campaign website.

Geoff Young

Young is on the ballot after an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Rep. Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional district. He also ran for the same seat in 2018, 2016 and 2014, to no avail.

The MIT graduate ran for governor in 2015, where he was defeated in the primary by Jack Conway. Young also waged an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2019.

In 2012, he was a Green Party candidate for Kentucky’s 45th district in the House of Representatives.

Young describes Gov. Beshear as a “corrupt, incompetent, not-yet-indicted FELON” on his campaign website.


Daniel Cameron

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the media following the return of a grand jury investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, in Frankfort, Ky., Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Cameron took office as Kentucky’s Attorney General in 2020, the first African American and first Republican since 1943, to be elected to the office.

Combatting human trafficking and the opioid epidemic have long been key tenants of Cameron’s agenda. He recently launched Operation Fight Fentanyl to hear from communities on how to remedy the drug crisis.

Cameron’s name is also deeply connected to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose fatal shooting contributed to the racial justice protests that rocked the U.S. in the spring and summer of 2020.

The deadly no-knock drug raid on Taylor’s apartment—a probe around which has led to federal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and civil rights violations—ignited racial justice protests in Kentucky and beyond. In a probe of the shooting, Cameron brought no charges directly related to Taylor’s death to a grand jury.

Cameron earned the endorsement of former president Donald Trump shortly after announcing his candidacy.

Jacob Clark

Clark is an Elizabethtown native who describes himself as a “fed-up patriot” seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

His disdain isn’t reserved just for Andy Beshear—he’s also criticized Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) on his campaign Facebook page, where he also advocates for abolishing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

David Cooper

A member of the Kentucky Army National Guard, Cooper is promising transparent bipartisanship during his first foray into politics.

He labels himself “center right on the political scale” according to BallotPedia. Cooper is opposed to abortion except in instances of rape, incest or life of the mother being threatened.

Kelly Craft

A longtime Kentucky Republican donor, Craft served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President Trump from July 2019 to Jan. 2021. She was also a Kentucky delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Kelly Craft, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, stands on the steps of the Barren County Courthouse to announce her candidacy for Kentucky governor in Glasgow, Ky., Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Craft entered the race in Sept. 2022 after speculation swirled when she spent $2.5 million on a ham at the annual Country Ham Breakfast.

Craft quickly landed a key endorsement from U.S. Rep. James Comer, who represents a conservative western Kentucky district.

As the campaign ramps up, Craft appears to be borrowing from a script used by Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in his successful campaign in 2021. Youngkin won by tapping into culture war fights over school curricula, emphasizing parental rights to make decisions about their children’s education.

Craft’s campaign said she wants to revamp the education department and state school board to “empower parents” and “make sure teachers teach the ABC’s, not the CRT’s (Critical Race Theory).”

Bob DeVore

Devore is a former UPS employee who served in the U.S. Navy from 1974 to 1999. He served on the McCreary County School Board from 2000 to 2006 and ran for mayor of Louisville in 2018.

Eric Deters

Deters is a suspended lawyer from northern Kentucky, known as a “firebrand” largely representing the liberty wing of the GOP. He bills himself as an “ardent Trump supporter since 2015,” though he was passed over by Trump, who instead endorsed Daniel Cameron.

In the aftermath of Trump’s quick endorsement, Deters claimed he’d run as an independent, dismissing Trump’s endorsement as “often wrong” and evidence he’s more concerned with backing a winner than someone with whom he agrees.

Nonetheless, Deters filed to run as a Republican. Among his stances on key issues are legalizing cannabis, “election integrity,” sports gambling and school choice.

Mike Harmon

Harmon served as a state representative from 2002 to 2015. Currently in office as State Auditor, he’s term-limited as he runs for governor.

Harmon touts his reputation as a fiscal conservative and government watchdog on the campaign trail.

He’s been something of a mainstay in Kentucky politics for years, sharing a ticket with Phil Moffett in 2011, where they placed second in the primary.

Alan Keck

Alan Keck talks to reporters after filing to run for Kentucky governor on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Frankfort, Ky. Keck is the mayor of Somerset, Ky. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)

One of the youngest candidates running for governor in 2023, Keck is the mayor of Somerset, in Pulaski County just south of Berea.

He boasts a “comprehensive, commonplace” platform to advance Kentucky’s economy, public safety and education. On his campaign’s Facebook page, he often posts roundtable discussions with younger voters to detail his so-called “Game Plan for Kentucky.”

Dennis Ray Ormerod

Ormerod filed to run as a Republican the last week of eligibility. The Louisville native doesn’t have much name recognition or a public-facing campaign site.

Ryan Quarles

Like Harmon, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles is another term-limited statewide officeholder seeking higher office in May.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles makes his victory speech to the audience gathered at the Republican party celebration event in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Quarles launched his campaign in June. He served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 2010 to 2015, before resigning after he was elected Commissioner of Agriculture.

Quarles called himself “pro-life” and “pro-gun” during his launch speech, staking out traditional Republican views on abortion and gun laws. With abortion, Quarles said he wants to see more resources dedicated to Kentucky’s adoption and foster care systems.

He often boasts his flurry of endorsements, which includes several judge-executives, county magistrates and city councilmembers from around the state.

Johnny Ray Rice

Rice, who reportedly spoke at a militia rally at the Capitol building in Frankfort three days after Jan. 6, 2021, stated in late 2021 that he intended to run for governor.

With no public-facing campaign site, it’s unclear what his stances are on the issues or how much he’s raised in the race thus far.

Robbie Smith

Richmond-born Robbie Smith teaches high school math in Madison County who bills himself as a “Common Man for the Commonwealth.”

He advocates for eliminating the income tax, property taxes and business taxes. Smith is also fiercely anti-abortion, pro-Second Amendment and his campaign website lays out an opposition to “Woke Insanity.”


Facebook Twitter