LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon has announced he will run for governor in 2023.
Harmon told LEX 18 Monday he's filing an intent to run with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. Once completed, he can build a structure that will allow him to raise funds for a campaign.
"So it's important that I get my structure in, make sure that I raise funds, make sure I get my message out," said Harmon, a Republican.
The state auditor will run in the Republican primary for a chance to unseat Gov. Andy Beshear, who plans to run for reelection.
When LEX 18 asked why he is planning to pursue the governor's office, he gave this reason first.
"I feel like the last year, year and a half, people's liberties and their livelihoods have been suspended and stolen. And I've had a lot of people, you know, come up to me and say 'hey Mike, we need somebody to be able to take care of this. We want you to run for governor,'" said Harmon. "And I've done a lot of praying about it, and I just really feel led in that direction. You know, I'm a Christian, and a husband, and a father, and a grandfather, and I want my kids and grandkids, and even hopefully someday my great-grandkids, to realize that Kentucky has so much opportunity and this nation has so much opportunity. And so I think it's important that we get out there and make sure that people understand that and make sure that this state accomplishes all that it can."
Harmon is a Boyle County High School graduate who graduated from EKU. He served in the State House, representing the 54th District, for more than a decade before defeating incumbent Auditor Adam Edelen in 2015, and is now in his second term.
In recent months, the auditor has ramped up criticisms of the Beshear administration's handling of the pandemic.
"I think initially, I think his (Beshear) heart was in the right place. But I mean, from the standpoint of whenever you take away people's liberties, and then you send the State Police to go out and take down license plate at churches," said Harmon. You shut businesses down for long periods of time. And then during this timeframe, you have a situation where you're shutting people's businesses down, and they need to apply for unemployment, and you shut down in-person unemployment offices as well."
"I want what's best for my kids and my grandkids, and hopefully my great-grandkids, and so I've just got that experience that it all kind of comes together," said Harmon.
In response to Harmon's announcement on Monday, Crystal Staley with Governor Beshear's office sent this response:
"The Beshear Coleman administration has led us through the challenges of a once in every hundred-year pandemic and engineered a successful economic recovery that is taking mere months instead of the projected years. With new jobs being announced every week all over Kentucky and having just led the state to its best fiscal year ever, we are focused on bringing prosperity to Kentucky families, and not any political campaign."
The Beshear/Coleman ticket was the only Democratic winner in the 2019 statewide election, which included big victories for Harmon and Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles.
Quarles is also in the second, and final, term of his current office and is "seriously considering a run for governor."
Quarles released this statement when we asked for his reaction to Harmon's announcement:
“I, like many Kentuckians, think a lot of Auditor Mike Harmon. We’ve been colleagues for a long time, dating back to our days of serving in the General Assembly together more than a decade ago.
For my own part, I have fought these last two years to stand up to Governor Andrew Beshear’s overreach. I’m committed to continuing that fight to make him a one-term Governor and to give our people a governor that actually listens to the people, instead of lecturing to them. I’m happy to see that fellow Republicans like Mike share this goal.”