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Contentious governor's race goes national as Cruz backs former UN Ambassador Kelly Craft, breaking with Trump

EXCLUSIVE: Endorsements are beginning to pile up in this year’s most contentious and highly anticipated off-election year race as a group of well-known Republicans vie to unseat Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.

The latest high-profile endorsement comes as decision day for Kentucky Republicans on who they want to face off against one of the nation’s last remaining red-state Democratic governors is less than two weeks away.

On Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced he would be supporting former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft over Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who has the support of former President Donald Trump, and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. The three are widely considered the front-runners in a crowded field of 12 GOP primary candidates.

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Former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft

Then-U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft delivers a statement following a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, October 23, 2017. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

“Kelly Craft is the candidate that Kentuckians need as their governor to usher in a new generation of leadership,” Cruz said in a statement. “I’ve seen firsthand how hard Kelly has worked to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party and negotiate the largest trade deal in American history.” 

“I also know how passionate she is about ensuring that every Kentuckian can reach their full potential and achieve the American Dream. I’m honored to endorse her for Governor of Kentucky and am excited to stump for her in the Bluegrass State to get out the vote,” he added.

Alongside the endorsement, Craft announced Cruz would be joining her for a string of get out the vote rallies in Louisville and Richmond on Saturday, May 13, just days ahead of the Tuesday, May 16 primary.

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Ted Cruz and Kelly Craft

Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed former U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft in the Kentucky governor’s race. (Getty Images/Reuters)

“I’m looking forward to having my friend, Sen. Cruz, with me on the campaign trail as we enter the final days of the primary,” Craft said in a statement. “Over the past 10 months, I’ve been inspired by the thousands of Kentuckians I have met who all want the same thing: a better future for our children and grandchildren. Sen. Cruz has the same vision for Texas and I’m grateful to have his support.”

“I’m the only candidate not owned by special interest groups or the Washington, D.C., establishment,” Craft added. “It would be my honor to be your Republican nominee for Governor of Kentucky to finally retire the Beshear regime from Kentucky politics in November.”

Cruz is the first national politician to wade into the race since last year when Trump announced his support for Cameron and House Oversight Committee Chair, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., announced his support for Craft. Cameron re-posted the video of Trump’s endorsement earlier this week on social media.

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Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks to members of the press after the oral arguments of the Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center case were heard at the U.S. Supreme Court October 12, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Cameron received Trump’s endorsement before Craft tossed her hat into the race last year, however, a number of people familiar with the race mulled over the possibility Trump might shift his support to Craft, who served as his ambassador to Canada from 2017-2019 and as U.N. ambassador from 2019-2021 after the resignation of now presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

In addition to Comer and Cruz, Craft also has the support of a number of Kentucky state legislators and other local officials. She has also been joined on the campaign trail by former University of Kentucky All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, a well-known critic of biological males competing in women’s sports.

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Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles

Ryan Quarles, Agriculture Commissioner, State of Kentucky, speaks onstage during the 2022 Concordia Lexington Summit – Day 2 at Lexington Marriott City Center on April 08, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images for Concordia)

In addition to Trump, Cameron has the support of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and a number of local law enforcement officials. Quarles, who has run a large grassroots operation across many of the rural counties of the state, has the support of a commanding portion of Kentucky’s farmers and a whopping 235 local elected officials, including one-third of all county judge executives.

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