Bevin eyeing Kelly Craft as possible running mate for re-election bid

Kelly Craft, the United States Ambassador to Canada | Via U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Canada

Gov. Matt Bevin recently spoke with United States Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft about the possibility of her joining his ticket for his re-election campaign this year, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

Craft did not return a voicemail and email from Insider Louisville, but the source familiar with the conversation indicated that Craft is one of several individuals Bevin is pursuing as a running mate to replace the current Lt. Gov.Jenean Hampton in his bid for a second term as governor.

Spokespersons for the governor did not return an email seeking comment.

Craft was named the ambassador to Canada in 2017 and — along with her husband, Joe Craft, the billionaire CEO of coal giant¬†Alliance Resource Partners — is one of the most prolific donors to Republican candidates in Kentucky.

On Thursday evening at the annual dinner of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in Frankfort, Bevin repeated his intention to run for re-election this year, dismissing observers who have questioned if he would actually do so, as he has not yet filed the paperwork necessary to begin raising money for such a campaign. Bevin said that he would file for office “sometime between now and Jan. 29,” which is the filing deadline for candidates.

On Tuesday, Bevin picked up a would-be Republican challenger, as state Rep. Robert Goforth announced a run for governor with a speech that blasted Bevin as arrogant and narcissistic.

Gov. Matt Bevin and Kelly Craft were seated next to each other at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce dinner Thursday night | Screengrab via KET

Congressman James Comer — who lost to Bevin by just 83 votes in the 2015 Republican primary for governor — recently said that he would consider running for governor if Bevin decided not to run, while also questioning how much the governor could accomplish in a second term after alienating so many legislators in his own party.

Comer happened to pull Craft into the discussion of the governor’s race earlier on Thursday, tweeting a photo of her and stating: “Lots of talk about who would be a good Governor…I think Republicans should also consider Ambassador Kelly Craft!”

That tweet was published just hours before the annual dinner of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, where Bevin happened to be seated directly next to Craft.

Kelly and Joe Craft both supported Comer in the 2015 primary, giving $2,000 to his campaign, with other family members also contributing thousands of dollars to Comer.

In his speech to the chamber dinner, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers singled out Craft and said that she may run for public office one day and would be a qualified candidate.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the given name ofJenean Hampton,Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, and to clarify that Craft isone of several individuals Bevin is pursuing as a running mate.