One of our readers asked me, “What sort of governor would XX be?” I started to answer, then decided I’d rather do this analysis for more than one of the Repub candidates. So, here’s my take on the top three Republican candidates, plus one, and how they would do as governor.
Let’s be clear, though: none of these on their best day would be as good as Andy Beshear on his worst day. But, there will be time enough for that comparison once the Repubs figure out who they are going to put forward. In the meantime, let’s answer the title question.
I thought Cameron was too inexperienced when he ran for attorney general, and four years later he is too inexperienced to be governor. Looking in from the outside, I suspect his staff — which seems to be pretty experienced — is doing the heavy lifting.
In addition, I have no sense of what his vision is for the state. I’m not sure he has one, beyond what ideas come out of Fox News. There are times when I could swear he is just reading his lines from a script – or from a set of talking points.
Beyond that, though, is his lack of a spine. In the Taylor grand jury case, it seemed that he was trying to please everyone, and wound up not really pleasing anyone. I cannot even begin to imagine him standing up to Stivers or Osborne if the Lege decided to do something he didn’t like. If Cameron were elected governor, the state would be run by Mitch McConnell and the General Assembly leadership.
At one time, Craft was registered as a Democrat. At one time, she said Andy Beshear had done a good job handling the pandemic. At one time, she was chosen to be a non-partisan representative of our country to the United Nations.
All that is gone now. When she decided to run for governor, Kelly Craft made a conscious decision to run to the right of not only Cameron, but of everyone else in the race. She put on MAGA like an ill-fitting costume, and as a result has become a caricature of a candidate.
As governor, she would be even worse, because being governor involves more than being Savannah Maddox with money. She would try to govern from the right, and her lack of experience actually running anything, especially something so complex as a state government, would be obvious almost from the beginning.
Of the top three Republican candidates, there is no doubt in my mind that Ryan Quarles would make the best governor. He has a wide set of skills and experience, including serving in the legislature and two terms as Ag Commissioner.
And he is no dummy. From Wikipedia:
Quarles is a native of Georgetown, Kentucky. He attended Scott County High School and was the valedictorian of the class of 2002. While working on the Quarles family farm, he was an undergraduate triple major (Agriculture Economics, Public Service & Leadership, and Political Science) and earned masters in Agricultural Economics and in Diplomacy & International Relations from the University of Kentucky. He graduated summa cum laude with honors. Quarles received a Truman Scholarship, Udall Scholarship, and a scholarship from Toyota. As a Zuckerman Fellow, he was awarded a full-ride scholarship to Harvard University, earning a Masters in Education. He also attended the University of Kentucky College of Law, earning his J.D. in 2010.
While the other two have spent their time attacking each other and spouting right-wing talking points, Quarles has quietly built his campaign from the grassroots, and has actually put forward his plans for such things as education.
And most importantly, I think Quarles would be the most effective at working with the Lege while not kowtowing to them. I suspect he would garner more respect from the Republican leadership than either Cameron or Craft. And, I think he would govern more in the middle than either of them, as well.
And one other
Alan Keck, the mayor of Somerset, is not in the top three, and has basically no shot at winning the nomination. But of all the candidates in the race, including Quarles, he strikes me as the one with the least right-wing baggage and the most passion for simply finding what works. His biggest weakness is his lack of experience at a state-wide level. But, he appears to care deeply about good governance, and doesn’t care whom he has to work with to get things done. If he could get the two parties in Frankfort to share his vision, he might make the best governor of any of the Repubs.
In Kentucky, we don’t have ranked choice voting. We don’t even have a runoff, to force some candidate to have to get to a majority. So, either Cameron or Craft is probably going to be the winner of the primary with about 30% of the vote.
Neither one, in my opinion, is ready to be governor. Neither one has shown me all that much, except how to hit their marks and say their lines. And if either is actually elected, it will be a long, long four years in the Bluegrass.
Quarles, or even Keck, would be much better. I think they would actually be relatively effective in the job. And they both seem, to me, to care more about public service than about appearing on Fox News.
Andy Beshear is not perfect. But he is light years ahead of Cameron and Craft when it comes to governing effectively and with compassion. And he would be better than Quarles or Keck when it comes to building a Kentucky that is ready for the future, including being a state that celebrates diversity in both its economy and its people.
The Republicans are not going to elect their best candidate. And even if they did, Andy Beshear is the better choice.