Craft campaign joined by outspoken critic of transgender women in sport

Published 4:47 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023

Kelly Craft has added a noted name to her campaign for the Republican nomination for governor – Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer getting national attention for speaking out against transgender women in sports.

Craft made another stop on her Kitchen Table Tour in Bowling Green on Tuesday night, speaking to over 50 locals at Mister B’s Pizza and Wings.

Gaines accompanied her to speak about her experience competing against Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who swam for University of Pennsylvania’s women’s team. At the 2022 NCAA swimming and diving championship, Gaines and Thomas tied for fifth in the 200-meter freestyle.

The NCAA officials only had one trophy, and they gave it to Thomas, Gaines said. Gaines also said that Thomas shared the women’s locker room with the female competitors.

Since the competition, Gaines has spoken out about her disagreement with the NCAA’s policy concerning Thomas and other transgender athletes. She said that it is unfair for Thomas to compete in the same category as biological females, and that she took opportunities away from others who missed out on an NCAA qualification.

“I don’t claim to speak for every single person, but I can wholeheartedly attest to the tears that I saw from the girls who placed ninth and 17th and missed out on being named All-American by one place,” Gaines said.

She added that she and her competitors were not informed that Thomas would be using the same locker room, which caused discomfort.

“It’s embarrassing, it’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, it’s belittling,” she said.

Craft called Gaines a “hero” for how she has dealt with her experience with “grace” and “kindness.” She has made the fight against “woke” ideas a key part of her campaign.

She said that one of her first official acts as governor would be to dismantle and rebuild the Kentucky Board of Education to remove the influence of a “woke commissioner.” If Commissioner Jason Glass doesn’t resign once she’s elected, she would fire him on her inauguration day, she said.

Glass has become a Republican enemy for guidance on the Department of Education website recommending that schools use their students’ preferred pronouns.

“I’m here to make certain at this stage, that we take out all of the woke left ideologies and we take the state back to the kitchen table issues where God is at the center of the table, where we make certain that kids understand responsibility, accountability and consequences, and that we hold these drug dealers accountable,” she said.

Craft cited her experience as a former Canada and United Nations ambassador in the Trump administration as reasons to vote for her in the Republican primary on May 16.

Also on the ballot are Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles, State Auditor Mike Harmon, Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking re-election.

Hours before her Bowling Green campaign stop, a mass shooter killed five people in downtown Louisville. Craft commended the Louisville Metro Police Department for their quick response, getting to the scene in three minutes.

She said that if she were governor and something like that happened, she would reach out to victims’ families and pray for everyone involved, including the responding police experiencing trauma.

“We have a lot of healing, but we’re not going to let one person define our commonwealth,” Craft said.

Several attendees were happy to see Gaines alongside Craft, including Maggie Morris, a Bowling Green High School soccer player and swimmer.

She followed the trophy incident and said she didn’t like to see it taken away from Gaines, but has seen Gaines speak out since.

“I wouldn’t want to be in that position either,” Morris said. “It’s very inspiring to see a woman stepping up to do that.”

Julie Schockley came with her granddaughter, Jenna, who also sees Gaines as a role model.

Julie Schockley said she’s trying to hear what all the candidates stand for, but that she liked Craft.

“I’m interested in how they’re going to reach the young generation of voters – Gen Z,” she said. “I know all this stuff going on in schools impacts them, so I want them to have a voice.”

Caleb Lowndes, Bowling Green Daily News
Gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft (left) and former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines answer questions Monday night during a campaign event at Mister B’s Pizza and Wings.