FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky's next big election is in 2022 and there's a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot. But the conversation in Kentucky has already shifted to the 2023 election - the one that will determine who gets to sit in the Governor's Office.
"In politics, we say it's about the next race. In Kentucky, we almost always mean that to imply the governor's race," said Bob Babbage of Babbage Cofounder. "Because our federal races - as important as they are, and as prominent as our US Senators are - we're always thinking about Frankfort more than Washington. It's closer. It has a different impact. It has a different feel. We tend to know those people a little differently and, perhaps, a little better."
The gubernatorial race conversation was brought to the forefront after State Auditor Mike Harmon announced his intention to run for governor.
"I feel like the last year, year and a half, people's liberties and their livelihoods have been suspended and stolen," said Harmon when asked why he is running.
The announcement was not unexpected, as Harmon was rumored to be interested in the position. However, it was early.
"To have one this early is unusual," said Babbage. "It's different and unique."
But it could be an advantage because there's talk that several other big republicans might run for governor as well. So, being the first big republican name in the race may give Harmon a boost.
"First to market in business often gets an advantage. Same in the political world - the public square," said Babbage. "If you get in first - you get in early - you get the conversation. Naturally, everybody's going to react about other candidates, other prospects. But Harmon made a surprising move, let's face it. And he gets credit for that."
Harmon will likely face a few other candidates in the Republican primary. There's talk that Kelly Craft, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, might run. There's talk that former governor Matt Bevin might run too.
Then, there's Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. He says he's strongly considering a run.
Quarles says he and Harmon share a similar vision.
"We need a conservative leader in the governor's mansion," said Quarles. "So, I think this is just the beginning of what's going to be a two-year-long primary process in Kentucky."
The winner of the primary will then take on Governor Andy Beshear in the general election.
Babbage says beating an incumbent is always difficult.
"Andy Beshear has tremendous name recognition and has continued to be popular in polling time and again," said Babbage.