Mills joins Cameron’s ticket in Kentucky governor’s race
The state senator is from Western Kentucky
Robby Mills. (Photo by LRC Public Information)
FRANKFORT — Republican Daniel Cameron’s lieutenant governor pick is Sen. Robby Mills.
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 issued a veto but the General Assembly overrode it.
Mills also highlighted that he sponsored legislation allocating relief funds following tornadoes in Western Kentucky.
“He 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.
Additionally, 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.
Previously, Mills told the Kentucky 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, competed with Cameron for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and criticized him for not adequately supporting coal.
On Wednesday, Mills said he voted for Cameron in the primary election.
Another issue that has spilled from the most recent legislative session into the governor race is the passage of Senate Bill 150, a law that included a ban on gender-affirming medical care like hormones and puberty blockers for transgender minors. Republicans have criticized Beshear for vetoing the bill, which the General Assembly easily overrode.
Mills voted in favor of the bill and said he believed “gender reassignment is at best an experiment” in a March floor speech. Cameron’s office has also made similar assertions about gender-affirming care, according to a recent press release.
At the press conference, Mills clarified that he views the medical treatments as “experiments,” not transgender people.
“Those decisions should be made after they’re 18 when they’re adults,” Mills added before reaffirming his support of the law.
Advocacy group Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky said in a Wednesday press release that gender-affirming surgeries have been around for a century and Mills’ comments were “profoundly false.” In the 1980s, fully reversible puberty blockers were given to transgender youth for the first time in severe cases of gender dysphoria, though “they have been available to cisgender youth seeking to modulate certain aspects of puberty since the 1940s.” In the 1990s, cross-sex hormones first became available to transgender teenagers.
Rebecca Blankenship, executive director of Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, previously told the Lantern gender-affirming surgeries for minors currently do not happen in the state and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups in Kentucky haven’t opposed banning them.
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.”
The campaign trail ahead
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 hit the campaign trail on Wednesday with scheduled stops in Bowling Green and Henderson.
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