Who is Kelly Craft? What you need to know about the Kentucky gubernatorial candidate

Kelly Craft applauds after matching her bid with Central Bank’s bid for a total of $5 million for the country ham at the Kentucky State Fair. The money for the ham will go to charity. August 25, 2022

Former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft is officially running for Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in 2023.

She entered an already crowded Republican primary when she launched her campaign in early September. Here’s what you need to know about Kraft as she tries to get elected to this powerful position in her home state government.

She worked as an ambassador for former President Donald Trump

Craft served in Trump’s four-year administration, first as US ambassador to Canada and then to the U.N. Before that, she joined the U.S. delegation to the United Nations as an alternate representative when former President George W. Bush was in office.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recommended her for UN ambassador, and she served in that role from mid-2019 until Trump left office in January 2021.

Former President Donald Trump, flanked by Kelly and Joe Kraft, reacts to the crowd at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

Former President Donald Trump, flanked by Kelly and Joe Kraft, reacts to the crowd at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

While ambassador to Canada, Craft was involved in negotiations for a major new trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada.

She faced some scrutiny for spending significant time in the US instead of Canada during her nearly two-year stint as liaison to America’s northern neighbor.

She also received some criticism in 2017 when a Canadian television network asked her if she believed in climate change, and she responded by saying, “I think there are scientists on both sides who are accurate.”

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change is real, fueled by human activity, and strongly affecting environments in Kentucky and around the world.

More:Who’s in, who’s maybe, who’s out: Our very early look at Kentucky’s 2023 gubernatorial candidates

He is a wealthy Republican donor

Craft has been a GOP fundraiser for many years, long before she married coal industry billionaire Joe Craft. For example, he co-chaired the Republican National Economic Committee and participated in Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

She and her husband are major donors who have given a ton of money to conservative candidates and organizations in and outside of Kentucky and supported Trump’s bid for president in 2016. After Trump’s victory, the duo were part of the inaugural committee of the upcoming president.

More:How Trump’s pick for UN ambassador has deep ties to Kentucky Republican politics

He has never held elected office

If Kentucky voters choose her as their next governor, it would be Kraft’s first time serving as an elected official. He was appointed, not elected, to both embassies.

Craft’s opponents in the 2023 Republican primary for governor include several elected officials, including Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, state Auditor Mike Harmon, state Rep. Savannah Maddox and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

He grew up in Kentucky

Craft grew up in the Barren County town of Glasgow, where her late father, Bobby Guilfoil, once served as county Democratic Party chairman.

She emphasized her Kentucky upbringing and the lessons her dad taught her first campaign videosaying that he learned that “his life was built on a promise.”

“From giving up our seat at the family table during dinner to a tired farmer coming home with my dad because his animal needed veterinary care, to working on the house late at night,” he said. “A promise that if you lived by your faith, worked hard, did right by your neighbor, here in Kentucky anything is possible.”

Morgan Watkins is The Courier Journal’s chief political reporter. Contact her at mwatkins@courierjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.

This article originally appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal: What you need to know about Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft

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