A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Cameron’s pick of Sen. Robby Mills as running mate in governor’s race reflects his conservative views

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

FRANKFORT – His name does not have high statewide name recognition but state Sen. Robby Mills’ rock-ribbed conservatism with a record of beating prominent Democrats in a Western Kentucky district spurred Republican nominee for governor Daniel Cameron to tap Mills as his running mate.

“When I was searching for the right person to serve beside me as your next lieutenant governor, I was looking for a true conservative with a strong track record of getting things done – someone who shares our values and fights for what is right,” Cameron told a full house Wednesday morning at the state Republican Party headquarters in announcing Mills, of Henderson, as his running mate.

They face Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who is seeking re-election with his running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, an educator.

Robby Mills

Several enthusiastic state legislators on hand predicted that Mills, who runs the family business of Nu-Look Cleaners in four Western Kentucky communities and Evansville, Ind., “will take Beshear to the cleaners.”

It is considered to be a tight race to be decided in the Nov. 7 general election.

The Cameron campaign in a nod to Western Kentucky voters noted that if Mills is elected lieutenant governor in, he would be the only constitutional officer who lives west of I-65.

Mills, 56, with his wife, Vickie, at his side, said he was humbled to be named Cameron’s running mate. He said during a brief news conference that he had voted for Cameron in last May’s Republican primary election for governor.

In a swipe to Beshear, he said it is “imperative we have leadership in Kentucky who will actually work with the General Assembly on real solutions.”

Ryan Salzman, a former associate political science professor at Northern Kentucky University, said Mills is not well-known yet across the state but he “shores up Cameron’s credentials to be on the far right.”

Mills defeated longtime state Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson by 484 votes in 2018. He helped Republicans win control of the state House for the first time in 100 years by defeating longtime Democratic state Rep. David Watkins.

The public spotlight has shone on Mills a few times since he was elected to the state Senate in 2018. He was first elected to the House in 2016. Before that, he was a city commissioner in Henderson with failed bids for the Henderson Fiscal Court and mayor of Henderson.

In 2020, Mills, who has a business management degree from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., expressed concern about radical gender theory that he said would allow boys to compete in girls’ sports. In 2022, Mills passed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which prohibits transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity.

Mills also was the lead sponsor of the bill which requires Kentuckians to show a government-issued photo ID to vote.

This year, he sponsored bills that prohibited public schools from deducting union dues from teachers’ paychecks – a move heavily criticized by the Kentucky Education Association – and to make sure the transition from coal to other forms of energy does not happen at a rate that jeopardizes the reliability and affordability of electricity in Kentucky.

Mills, the chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, worked closely with the Kentucky Coal Association on the coal bill. The lobbying group is close with the Craft family coal company. Joe Craft gave at least $2,000 last year to Mills’ Senate re-election campaign and his wife, Kelly Craft, ran this year in the state Republican election for governor.

Beshear and the Democratic Governors Association were quick to criticize Mills as Cameron’s running mate.

In a tweet, Beshear said, “My opponent’s first major campaign decision is to pick a lieutenant governor candidate who helped lead the charge to enact Matt Bevin’s plan to slash pensions for our teachers, police, and firefighters. That couldn’t be further from my values — and the values of Kentuckians.”

In a release, the governors’ association said, “It’s no surprise that Cameron would pick someone just as extreme as him – with a record of voting to cut health care coverage, to slash pensions for teachers and first responders, and opposing medical cannabis.”

Mills should also have no problem with Cameron’s failure to investigate former Gov. Matt Bevin’s controversial pardons as he endorsed Bevin, supported his unpopular “sewer bill” to cut teachers’ pensions and wrote an op-ed supporting his re-election.

A vote for Cameron and Mills is a vote for a second term of Matt Bevin’s failed policies, the Democrats said.

“By selecting the politician who helped lead Matt Bevin’s push to slash pensions for teachers, police and firefighters and strip funds away from public schools, Daniel Cameron threatens to take Kentucky back to the days where working families were left behind and public education was constantly under attack,” said DGA States Press Secretary Emma O’Brien.

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Featured Photo by Tom Latek/Kentucky Today

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