Craft closes fundraising gap with GOP pacesetter Quarles
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Ryan Quarles kept his overall fundraising lead among Kentucky Republicans running for governor in 2023, but Kelly Craft set a blistering pace to overtake the rest of the GOP field in her first weeks on the campaign trail, according to the latest campaign-finance reports.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is seeking a second term next year, maintained his fundraising dominance as the campaigns posted third-quarter fundraising numbers. The governor continued his quarterly pace of surpassing $1 million in contributions.
“It is heart-warming to see folks from across the state pitch in to keep Kentucky moving forward,” Beshear said in a statement this week.
While Beshear has the luxury of stockpiling contributions with an eye toward next year’s fall campaign, Republican candidates are competing intensely for campaign cash in the crowded race for the GOP nomination for Kentucky’s marquee political job.
Quarles, the state’s agriculture commissioner, topped $300,000 in donations in the most recent three-month period. Quarles has touted the strength of his grassroots network, especially across rural Kentucky, and has raised more than $875,000 since entering the campaign in the spring.
Quarles’ campaign said Wednesday his fundraising shows “the broad base of support and the dedication to fiscal responsibility you can expect from a Quarles gubernatorial administration.”
But Craft quickly closed the gap while barely dipping into her family’s fortune. Another Republican rival, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, also outraised Quarles in the most recent quarter.
Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during Donald Trump’s presidency, raised more than $750,000 in the 24 days since launching her campaign last month. Her campaign called it a record amount raised by any Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate in less than one month.
The totals do not include independent funds controlled by political action committees, which could have considerable impact as the gubernatorial campaign intensifies.
Craft received contributions from all 120 Kentucky counties and 85% of her financial supporters were from the Bluegrass State, her campaign said.
“Our movement to restore Kentucky’s promise has only just begun,” Craft said in a statement.
Craft spent years cultivating connections within the GOP as she and her husband, coal magnate Joe Craft, donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates. Her finance report showed she didn’t make a personal loan to her campaign, though she’ll have the ability to do so later in the race. Craft and her husband each contributed $2,000 to her campaign. She made nearly $31,000 of in-kind contributions to her campaign, mostly picking up travel expenses, her report showed.
Cameron reported raising more than $407,000 in the third quarter for his gubernatorial bid. He has raised more than $708,000 since entering the campaign in the spring. Cameron has landed the most coveted endorsement of the GOP race, winning Trump’s backing in June, but he still placed third in overall fundraising on the Republican side.
For the second straight quarter, Republican state Rep. Savannah Maddox raised just more than $100,000 for her gubernatorial campaign. She has raised more than $210,000 overall. Maddox said Wednesday she remained encouraged by her fundraising and described herself as “the only grassroots conservative in this race.”
Retired northern Kentucky attorney Eric Deters has taken in more than $94,000 since entering the campaign. Republican state Auditor Mike Harmon has raised more than $64,000 since joining the race in the summer of 2021.
Meanwhile, Beshear has raised more than $4.5 million since announcing his reelection bid last fall. The governor touts his stewardship of the state’s economy and his handling of historic tornado and flood disasters that hit parts of the state. During his term, Kentucky has set economic development records for job creation and investments.
“With record new job announcements and a strong-and-getting-stronger economy, we’ve made it through some tough times and are now in a position to thrive,” Beshear said this week.
Republicans wanting his job have criticized Beshear for his coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and gatherings earlier in his term and for his many policy disputes with the state’s GOP-led legislature. They’re also trying to connect him to Democratic President Joe Biden’s handling of the national economy during a time of high inflation.
Beshear has defended his actions during the lockdown, saying they saved lives, and has continued to receive strong approval ratings from Kentuckians in polls despite the attacks on his record.