Cameron picks Mills as running mate

Published 11:39 am Thursday, July 20, 2023


Kentucky Lantern

Republican Daniel Cameron’s lieutenant governor pick is Sen. Robby Mills.

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Mills is a state lawmaker from Henderson in Western Kentucky. His district includes Dawson Springs, ravaged by tornadoes in 2021 and the hometown of incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear.

Cameron, who is the Kentucky attorney general, said in a Wednesday morning news conference that Mills is a “rock-ribbed conservative with a history of beating legacy Democrats.” Cameron added that Mills is against ESG, or ​​environmental, social and governance investing.

“This combination of both public and private sector experience will certainly benefit a Cameron-Mills administration,” Cameron said. “As I said, Robby is a man of deep faith and loves his family.”

Before being elected to the Kentucky Senate, Mills was a city commissioner and  served in the state House of Representatives. Mills’ family runs a dry cleaning business.

Speaking at Wednesday’s announcement, Mills criticized Beshear, who is seeking reelection. The lieutenant governor candidate reminded the crowd that he sponsored a bill that barred transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. The current governor vetoed it but the General Assembly overrode the veto.

Mills also highlighted that he sponsored legislation allocating relief funds following tornadoes in Western Kentucky.

“H​​e has failed to support our values and it’s time for a change in the Kentucky governor’s office,” Mills said of Beshear.

During the 2023 legislative session, Mills sponsored Lofton’s Law, named after a University of Kentucky freshman who died from alcohol poisoning in 2021. The act, which was signed by Beshear and passed by the General Assembly, makes hazing a felony.

Mills also recently sponsored a law barring some public-sector unions from collecting dues through payroll deductions. The General Assembly overruled Beshear’s veto of the measure, but Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Brian Edwards issued a temporary injunction against the law earlier this month.

In this year’s session, Mills sponsored a measure backed by the coal industry but opposed by the state’s investor owned utilities that sets up regulatory barriers to utilities retiring coal-fired generation. It became law without Beshear’s signature.

Mills told the Lantern that coal company executive Joe Craft never spoke to him specifically about the bill during this year’s legislative session, but the two did have conversations in recent years over how to keep fossil fuel plants “going, burning.” During this year’s session, Craft’s wife, Kelly Craft, was competing with Cameron for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and criticizing him for not adequately supporting coal.

On Wednesday, Mills said he voted for Cameron in the primary election.

The Beshear campaign was quick to issue a statement regarding Mills. Denouncing him for supporting the “sewer bill,” a 2018 effort to overhaul Kentucky’s public pensions, the statement said the choice “shows how Daniel Cameron does not care about hard-working Kentuckians.” The legislation, which was eventually struck down by the state Supreme Court, was supported by former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin.

“Andy is proud to be running with an active educator in Jacqueline Coleman, someone who understands the importance of public schools and public school teachers,” Beshear’s campaign said. “He is focused on continuing our Commonwealth’s record-setting job growth, bringing more investment to Kentucky on top of the billions already delivered, and making good on campaign promises from new infrastructure projects to medical marijuana and sports betting.”

Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, said when choosing a running mate, candidates look to balance a ticket.

“Picking a guy from Western Kentucky but with ties to energy policy allows the Louisville-based leader of the ticket to have some representation directly out to the west and, indirectly because of coal politics, to parts of Eastern Kentucky as well,” Voss said.

A downside of picking Mills could be when trying to gain votes from women, including suburban women, an area where Republicans have recently struggled, Voss said. A ticket helmed by two men who are social conservatives “may not help a ton with bringing back some of that vote that’s been slowly eroding in the Golden Triangle.”

Because of a change in state law, gubernatorial candidates could select their running mates after the primary election. The new deadline is the second Tuesday in August. This year’s date was Aug. 8.

Lieutenant governor candidates must file separately from their running mates to appear on the ballot. Coleman was the first to do that. She went to the Secretary of State’s Office on Tuesday.

Mills said he was “kind of looking forward” to speak at the upcoming annual Fancy Farm Picnic though it is a “challenging environment.” Cameron confirmed previously that he would attend the August event, a Kentucky politics tradition in Western Kentucky where speeches are known to be quite fiery.

Beshear, Coleman and a slew of other state officials and office seekers are also set to appear.

One rumored running mate for Cameron was Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who was a primary candidate. However, Quarles recently said in a Kentucky Newsmakers interview that he “made the decision” to not join Cameron’s ticket and instead wants to focus on education.

Cameron and Mills were set to the campaign trail on Wednesday with scheduled stops in Bowling Green and Henderson.

Sen. Robby Mills