FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican Daniel Cameron selected state legislator Robby Mills as his running mate Wednesday in Kentucky’s race for governor, turning to a steadfast conservative with a record of shepherding pro-coal and anti-transgender legislation that fits into his campaign themes.
Cameron, the state’s attorney general, introduced Mills to the campaign at a news conference at state GOP headquarters.
Choosing from a deep GOP bench, Cameron ended weeks of speculation about his lieutenant governor pick since emerging as his party’s gubernatorial nominee in May to challenge Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. Cameron adds a state senator to the ticket whose resume includes running his family business, ousting Democratic incumbents and sponsoring bills popular with Republicans.
Mills, 56, represents a district in western Kentucky — a region that has shifted heavily toward the GOP in recent years. The sprawling region is seen by Cameron’s campaign as crucial to its strategy of overcoming Beshear’s expected advantage in the state’s largest cities. Mills had a hand in crafting relief legislation after tornadoes devastated parts of western Kentucky, including in his district. Beshear was front and center after the storm hit and was widely praised for mobilizing state support for the region in its aftermath.
Kentucky’s showdown for governor is one of the nation’s most closely watched campaigns this year and could provide insight about voter sentiment heading into 2024 elections to determine control of the White House and Congress. Beshear is seeking a second term in November with incumbent Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman as his running mate. Coleman’s experience as a teacher and school administrator has reinforced the governor’s theme of an education-first agenda.
Meanwhile, Cameron turned to a lawmaker who shares his decidedly right-leaning philosophy. He praised Mills as a “strong conservative” and “man of faith” who can team with him to promote GOP campaign priorities. Cameron has focused on a host of social issues, including abortion and transgender issues.
“As your attorney general, I’ve shown I will always defend Kentucky values and I’ve found that same conviction in Robby Mills,” Cameron said in a statement.
Mills was elected to the Kentucky Senate in 2018, defeating a Democratic incumbent by fewer than 500 votes. In 2022, Mills won reelection with 66% of the vote. In 2016, he ousted a Democratic incumbent to serve a term in the Kentucky House. Prior to that, he served as a city commissioner in Henderson.
Mills’ family has owned a regional dry-cleaning business for decades.
He is best known in the legislature as the chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and sponsor of a host of high-profile bills.
Mills led the fight to ban transgender girls and women from participating in school sports matching their gender identity. He sponsored bills to defend the state’s coal industry and require Kentucky residents to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote.
Beshear has his own deep ties to western Kentucky. His father, former two-term Gov. Steve Beshear, grew up in Dawson Springs — a town that’s in Mills’ Senate district.