Republican Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles launched his campaign for governor on Wednesday, saying he is the candidate for the working class and urging fellow Republicans to not “sling mud” during the primary race.
Quarles already announced his candidacy last month, but ceremonially joined the increasingly crowded race for the GOP nomination on the courthouse steps in Georgetown.
Much of his speech focused on incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who he derided for being the son of former Gov. Steve Beshear.
“We may not have grown up with much, and our fathers were not all governor,” Quarles said.
He also lifted up conservative viewpoints, like opposing abortion and supporting gun rights.
“We are the working class. We shop at Walmart, we go to Dollar General, and our votes count just as much as everyone else’s,” Quarles said.
Quarles grew up on a farm in Scott County and says his family has lived in the area for nine generations. He is in his second four-year term as agriculture commissioner, and before that served in the state legislature.
So far two other Republicans have launched bids for governor—Attorney General Daniel Cameron and State Auditor Mike Harmon—but a handful of other candidates have strongly hinted at entering the race, including former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft and state Rep. Savannah Maddox.
During his speech, Quarles called on Republicans to not run negative campaigns during the primary race.
“I look forward to a spirited campaign with my friends. I view them all as my friends, we’re just applying for the same job,” Quarles said.
Colmon Elridge, chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, issued a statement after the announcement, supporting Beshear and panning Quarles’ candidacy.
“Despite his more than a decade as a self-serving and self-promoting politician, Kentuckians would struggle to list a single accomplishment from Ryan Quarles,” Elridge said.
“Quarles bungled his rollout for governor, showing he isn’t even ready to run for governor, much less serve as governor. If Quarles emerges from what increasingly looks like it is going to be an extreme, nasty and expensive Republican primary, Kentucky voters will have a clear choice next November.”