Get to know Kentucky’s 15 gubernatorial candidates


“I Voted” stickers are laid out for voters on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, at a polling place in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Nate Lucas, Reporter

This year, the commonwealth of Kentucky will hold its next gubernatorial election to determine its next governor and lieutenant governor. 

Of the 15 candidates, three are Democrats and 12 are Republicans, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website

Primary elections will be held on May 16 to determine which candidate will represent each political party. The general election will be held Nov. 7 to determine the governor and lieutenant governor elects. 

Winners of the general election will be sworn into office on Dec. 12. 

Democratic candidates

Andy Beshear

Incumbent Gov. Andy Beshear will be running with incumbent Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman in the Democratic primary. So far, his campaign has raised $4.5 million, according to LEX18

Beshear won the governorship in 2019, after a close race against Republican Matt Bevin, who held the position from 2015-2019. 

Beshear held office throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, where he gained status as one of the most popular governors in the U.S. He boasts a 59% approval rating, according to WHAS11

Beshear holds an advantage with his incumbent status, since incumbent governors in the United States have around a 72% chance to continue their governorship, according to the Center on the American Governor.

Geoff Young

Geoff Young is a UK graduate who has run and lost in the primaries of previous elections, like the 2015 gubernatorial race and bids for Congress in 2016 and 2018. 

His political experience comes from Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, where he worked for 15 years. 

Peppy Martin

Josephine Ellen “Peppy” Martin ran as a Republican Party gubernatorial candidate in 1999, but lost the general election with only 22.2% of the vote, according to the Kentucky State Board of Elections. Martin switched to the Democratic Party in 2006. 

During her 1999 campaign, Martin shared controversial comments, including one about U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, being his “Chinese connection.”

Republican candidates

The Republican Party will face a more populated battle in the primary elections, with a total of 12 candidates. 

Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is noticeably missing from the Republican candidates. Bevin teased a gubernatorial run on social media, but failed to file for the race. 

Daniel Cameron

Daniel Cameron, the current Kentucky attorney general, will run on the Republican ticket for a chance at the governor’s office. 

Cameron is a graduate of the University of Louisville, where he received a scholarship sponsored by McConnell. Cameron served as McConnell’s legal counsel from 2015-2017. 

Cameron has connections in the Republican Party, like McConnell and former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him for the position of attorney general. 

As the attorney general, Cameron often disagreed with pandemic precautions set by Beshear, and had a controversial ruling on the case of Breonna Taylor after not charging officers after her death. 

Cameron’s campaign has raised just shy of a million dollars. 

Kelly Craft

Another Republican hopeful is Kelly Craft, a former U.S. ambassador.

Craft has raised a total of $1.3 million for her campaign, and has spent $1 million of it so far, according to the Kentucky Lantern.

She has also served in multiple federal political positions. 

She first held the position of an alternate delegate to the United Nations in 2007, then United States ambassador to Canada in 2017 and most recently, United States ambassador to the United Nations from September 2019 to January 2021. 

Craft is a Lexington native and graduate of UK, where she earned her BA focusing on international law. She is married to philanthropist Joe Craft. 

Ryan Quarles

Ryan Quarles has served as the Kentucky commissioner of agriculture since 2016. Additionally, he served as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from 2010-2014. 

Quarles’s website said he wants to bring a message of “economic growth, investment in infrastructure and education, and less government intrusion in our lives, jobs, and schools to voters across the state.”

Jacob Clark

Jacob Clark is an engineer from Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He most recently lost the Republican primary for election to the Kentucky House of Representatives in May 2022, according to

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he unsuccessfully petitioned to impeach Andy Beshear for alleged unconstitutional pandemic mandates, according to Clark’s Facebook

David O. Cooper

David O. Cooper has over 22 years of service as a member of the Kentucky Army National Guard. An ordained minister and children’s book author, Cooper’s website says he seeks to have “the most transparent bipartisan administration in Frankfort.”

Cooper runs on the platforms of pro-life, protecting the Second Amendment and being cautious with government funds. 

Eric Deters

Eric Deters is a retired lawyer who practiced in both Ohio and Kentucky. Deters’s website said he is running as a Republican with conservative and libertarian views. 

His website also detailed a number of platforms he supports, including issues like no vaccination mandates, legalization of marijuana and legalization of sports gambling.

Deters said he is the leader of the Trump movement in northern Kentucky, and if he wins the primary with their vote, he will win the general election with them as well.

Bob DeVore

According to Bob DeVore has served as a member of the McCreary County School Board and boasts 25 years of service in the U.S. Navy.

DeVore recently lost the election for Jefferson County Clerk in May 2022. 

Mike Harmon

Mike Harmon is the current Kentucky state auditor, a position he has held since 2015. He also served in the Kentucky House of Representatives for 15 years.

Harmon’s website said he promotes the message of  “Freedom Over Fear” and is in disagreement with Beshear’s COVID response.

Alan Keck

Alan Keck is the current mayor of Somerset, Kentucky. Previously, he was an entrepreneur. 

According to his website, the issues most important to Keck include solving the Kentucky workforce crisis, reinvesting in Kentuckian communities through tax incentives and eliminating income tax towards a consumption based model. 

Keck has raised $200,000 since his announcement to run around 50 days ago, according to his website.

Robbie C. Smith

Robbie C. Smith is a high school math teacher from Madison county. 

Smith’s website for candidacy includes many of his positions on issues, such as less government spending, legalizing marijuana and supporting the coal industry. 

His website also said he is “a pro-life Chrisitan, a proud father, and an absolutely love-struck husband.” 

Dennis Ray Ormerod

Dennis Ray Ormerod is a candidate for Kentucky governor from Louisville. Ormerod does not currently have a live campaign website. 

Johnny Ray Rice 

Harrison County resident Johnny Ray Rice has mostly promoted his run for governor on social media.  

His Facebook group for candidacy said he helped organize the Jan. 9, 2021, “Patriot Rally” outside of the Kentucky capitol. The rally involved around 100 heavily armed protestors just days after the Jan. 6 U.S. capitol riot.

The Facebook group also said he has not raised any money as of Jan. 7, 2023.