Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles announced Saturday night that he will enter the 2023 governor's race, joining what's shaping up to be a crowded Republican contest to select a nominee to challenge Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
Quarles told a GOP gathering in Lexington that he will seek the state's top elected position. He had officially announced his candidacy in an interview on WKYT-TV’s Kentucky Newsmakers program.
Quarles, in his second term as agriculture commissioner, has long been seen as a strong contender, having built up his name recognition in GOP strongholds across rural Kentucky. His entry into the race could signal a flurry of potential announcements in the coming weeks and months.
At a Republican gathering earlier Saturday in Oldham County, Quarles tried to link Beshear to President Joe Biden, pointing to surging inflation and fuel prices.
“If there’s one thing we can all agree on today, is that Gov. Andy Beshear and President Biden both need to be one-termers,” Quarles said.
Beshear has stressed his stewardship of the state's economy while leading the Bluegrass State through the COVID-19 pandemic. The state's two largest-ever economic development announcements — both related to battery production for electric vehicles — have come during his term. Recent polling showed the governor receiving high job-performance ratings from Kentuckians.
But the governor faces a tough reelection fight in a state trending heavily toward Republicans.
State Auditor Mike Harmon announced last year that he will seek the GOP nomination for governor.
Several other Republicans are thought to be weighing gubernatorial bids, including Attorney General Daniel Cameron, former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft, state Sens. Ralph Alvarado and Max Wise, state Rep. Savannah Maddox and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.
Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a Republican, said Saturday that he anticipates a large field of GOP candidates for governor next year
“I think we’re going to need more paper for the ballots," he quipped in an interview with The Associated Press at the GOP gathering in Oldham County.