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Ky. Rep. Savannah Maddox joins crowded Republican race for governor

Rep. Savannah Maddox, a Republican from District 61, addresses the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Rep. Savannah Maddox, a Republican from District 61, addresses the Kentucky House of Representatives.

State Rep. Savannah Maddox filed to run for Kentucky governor on Monday, joining an increasingly crowded Republican primary race.

Maddox is expected to make a formal announcement Monday evening in Burlington. She filed a statement of intent with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance Monday morning and updated her Twitter profile and campaign website indicating her candidacy.

Maddox is the fourth Republican running for the chance to unseat Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. Her primary opponents so far include three statewide officers: Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles and State Auditor Mike Harmon. Former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft has also hinted that she will run.

On her campaign website, Maddox said she was running to fight against “woke progressive ideology that has infiltrated the Commonwealth.” She attacked Beshear for what she called "unconstitutional lockdowns and mandates, Critical Race Theory, runaway inflation, corruption,” and called for electing “authentic conservatives who walk the walk.” 

First elected to her northern Kentucky district in 2018, Maddox has leaned farther right than many Republicans in the state House of Representatives.

In 2019, Maddox sponsored Senate Bill 150, which allows Kentuckians to carry concealed firearms without a license. She and former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin were awarded the .50 Caliber Freedom Award on behalf of the National Association of Gun Rights for shepherding the measure into law.

In the backdrop of COVID emergency orders in 2020, she gained traction and support from so-called "liberty" conservatives for her stances opposing Beshear's response to the pandemic.

This year, Maddox sponsored House Bill 28, which would have banned state agencies, local governments and public universities from requiring employees to disclose whether they are vaccinated, or even asking workers about their vaccination status. The bill passed the House on a 71-22 vote, but was never taken up in the Senate.

In 2021, she also co-sponsored House Bill 217, which would have further limited the governor's emergency powers and attempted to thwart pandemic-related court rulings. The bill passed the House but never advanced in the Senate.

She also filed a bill with several House Republicans that would have set rules for how teachers talk about race and history in the classroom, one of the so-called anti-"Critical Race Theory" proposals.

Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge issued a statement criticizing Maddox for rallying with protesters who burned Beshear in effigy in 2020.

"Her entrance into the race ensures the year-long Republican primary will be even nastier, more extreme and more expensive. In November 2023, Kentuckians will have a clear choice between one of the most popular governors in the country and whoever emerges from the crowded, brutal Republican primary," Elridge wrote.

Beshear is currently the only Democrat in the race. The primary elections will take place in May 2023, and the General Election is on Nov. 7, 2023.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.

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