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Beshear leads gubernatorial fundraising fight, Craft closes in on Quarles

beshear press
Ryland Barton
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Andy Beshear announcing run for governor on July 9, 2018.

As Republican candidates for governor fight it out, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear continues to outraise his opponents. Beshear reported raising more than $1 million over the last three months, the fourth consecutive quarter in a row.

That brings the governor’s fundraising total to $4.5 million. But there’s still plenty of time before next year’s election.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles still has the fundraising edge, raising $875,727 since entering the race in May. But former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft is cutting into his lead. She raked in $751,597 in just a month since announcing her bid.

In a statement, her campaign said she has “set a record for any Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate in less than one month.”

University of Louisville political science professor Dewey Clayton said Craft’s profile as a prolific fundraiser and her political connections could explain her “impressive numbers in a short time.” 

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics, and she’s got a great start already. She’s connected to donors in both political and business circles way closer than other candidates are. That puts Craft in a different class apart from her GOP primary opponents. It’s a class where the GOP knows she can raise enough money far more easily than the others and project her as the frontrunner candidate in time, even if it’s Quarles who is still leading,” Clayton said.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron, armed with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, raised $407,757 this quarter, bringing his total to $708,287.

Clayton said Cameron, Quarles and Craft have the advantage of connections in political circles to help their fundraising, but it’s Craft who seems to know how to leverage it the most.

Craft has been a prolific Republican fundraiser for years and worked in President Donald Trump’s administration, first as the ambassador to Canada, and later as the ambassador to the U.N.

She also heads a business advisory and marketing firm in Lexington and is married to billionaire Joe Craft, the CEO of Alliance Coal, the second largest coal producer in the eastern U.S.

State Rep. Savannah Maddox picked up more than $100,000 over the last quarter, bringing her fundraising total to $210,795.

Beshear’s approval rating stands at 62%, according to a recent poll released by the Democratic Governors Association and he isn’t facing a major challenger in the Democratic primary so far, in contrast to the crowded GOP primary. 

Clayton said Beshear’s comfortable position on the fundraising front is due to his visibility through his press conferences during the pandemic and most recently, the eastern Kentucky flooding. 

“He’s proven himself in times of crisis. People know what kind of a governor he’s going to be if he’s re-elected. That’s enough of a fundraising advantage for someone who has already proven themselves to be a good governor in comparison to GOP candidates who haven’t been on the job before,” Clayton said.

GOP primary candidate Eric Deters, a former attorney from northern Kentucky, brought in a total of $94,670 in fundraising since his campaign launch last November.

KREF filings show Deters loaned his campaign $15,000 this quarter. Republican State Auditor Mike Harmon came in last in terms of fundraising numbers, with $64,919 in contributions to date.

Divya is LPM's Capitol Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.