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Kelly Craft says no one 'owns' her, pitches her candidacy at Jeffersontown campaign stop

Kelly Craft speaks to someone at the Gaslight Diner in Jeffersontown. An American flag and signs for her gubernatorial campaign are in the background, and so are people sitting at tables and standing around the restaurant.
Morgan Watkins
Gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft talks to someone Wednesday morning at a campaign event she held at the Gaslight Diner in Jeffersontown. She's running as a Republican in the primary for governor on May 16.

The Republican primary for governor is packed, but a recent poll indicated former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft is catching up to the frontrunner, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

With less than a month left before the Kentucky primary election, Craft made another stop in Jefferson County Wednesday as part of her “Kitchen Table Tour.”

Speaking to a crowd of about 30 people Wednesday morning, she made anti-transgender comments and talked about her opposition to how education is governed in this state – both of which have been central aspects of her bid for governor.

Her running mate, Republican state Sen. Max Wise, of Campbellsville, sponsored a new law the Kentucky Legislature passed last month that imposes restrictions on public schools and health care providers that, studies have shown, negatively affect trans kids.

During her event at the Gaslight Diner in Jeffersontown, Craft criticized the Kentucky Department of Education and its commissioner, Jason Glass, as “woke.”

Black Americans long used the word “woke” to generally describe a heightened awareness of racism and other social injustices.

In recent years, Republican politicians have increasingly deployed “woke” as a pejorative, especially when criticizing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives or LGBTQ rights. It also is used as a racist dog whistle.

Craft ran through other parts of her campaign pitch at Wednesday’s event, emphasizing things like:

  • Her previous work as a U.S. ambassador to Canada and to the United Nations during former President Donald Trump’s administration, including working on a trade deal called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement;
  • Her family’s experiences with drug addiction and her support for cracking down more harshly on drug trafficking through the criminal justice system; 
  • Her support for the coal industry, in which her billionaire husband Joe Craft has long worked as a corporate executive.

“And if anyone tells you they're going to fight for the coal industry more than Kelly Craft, then you better question everything else they're saying,” she said.

She indicated she and her husband fund significant philanthropic initiatives in Kentucky and know how to create jobs.

“I’m tired of losing jobs between Indiana and Tennessee. I’ve told the Southern governors I’m going to introduce a third new sport into the SEC. It’s called the economy,” she said. “We’re going to be first at the table, first to grab the offers, and we are going to be in the Top 10.”

She took questions from the crowd at the Gaslight Diner and then spent time talking one-on-one with people who came out to see her.

The primary election is May 16. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to easily win his own primary, and then face off in November against the Republican nominee.

“The rest are decent people,” Craft said of her opponents in next month’s race. “They're just not ready to lead a state.”

She has loaned her campaign several million dollars this year and far outspent her rivals.

“You have to find common ground with everyone. Just because you're the Republican Party doesn't mean you all agree,” she said when someone asked how she’d navigate Frankfort politics as the head of the Kentucky GOP if she’s elected.

“And I think I’ve made it pretty clear that no one owns me,” she said. “You will not have a Washington establishment nor a Republican establishment … running my office. It will be the state of Kentucky.”

Morgan is LPM's health & environment reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.

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