Kentucky chartered accountant Mike Harmon has announced a bid for governor in 2023. This makes him the first Republican to officially challenge Democratic Governor Andy Beshear.
Harmon is responsible for auditing the state’s accounting and financial performance in his second term as state auditor. Previously, he served in the State House of Representatives for 13 years.
Harmon said he was entering the race for disapproving of Beshear’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, citing the governor’s restrictions on gatherings and a backlog on jobless claims.
“I felt like it was important for people to see someone defend their rights – both their freedoms and their ability to make a living,” said Harmon.
During an interview Monday, Harmon criticized the mask mandate, restrictions on businesses during the pandemic, and Beshear’s use of Kentucky State Police officers to monitor churches holding services despite lockdown orders.
As a chartered accountant, Harmon published several special reports criticizing the Beshear government’s handling of an increase in unemployment claims over the past year.
According to the reports, the Kentucky Unemployment Agency did not know how much money the state owed in unemployment benefits, had more than 400,000 unread emails from people claiming benefits, and had at least 10 employees illegally claiming benefits.
With more than two years to go to the election, Harmon says he’s starting his campaign early to stay one step ahead of better-funded candidates.
“I’m not the type of person who has the personal finances to write a check just before the filing date. It was important for me to get out and start building the structure and making sure that some money is raised, ”Harmon said.
While no other Republicans have officially campaigned, some have explored potential attempts, including second-term Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and former UN Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft.
Harmon said the potentially crowded field shows the Republican Party is strong in the state.
“An active primary, in my opinion, is good for the party and ensures we have the strongest person to go into the fall,” said Harmon. “But we have to come together, whoever comes from the primary, we have to come together.”
Harmon was first elected auditor in 2015, defeating Democratic incumbent Adam Edelen.