Michael Adams, Stephen Knipper and Allen Maricle vie for secretary of state

Published 4:44 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2023

This is the second in a series of down-ballot candidate breakdowns the Bowling Green Daily News will be publishing each day before the primary election on Tuesday, May 16.

This year’s Republican secretary of state primary is unique – it’s the only election in which an incumbent is running for a second term.

In Kentucky, the secretary of state is responsible for election management, business registration and preservation of state records.

Secretary of State Michael Adams was elected in 2019. Before that, he served as deputy general counsel to Gov. Ernie Fletcher and counsel to the U.S. deputy attorney general in the second Bush administration.

Adams now faces two Republican challengers. The first, Stephen Knipper, is a familiar opponent. He previously served as Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton’s chief of staff and has decades of experience as a project manager.

Knipper lost to Adams in the Republican primary last cycle and lost to Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election in 2015.

The second challenger is Allen Maricle, a former state representative for the 49th District from 1993-99. During his time in Frankfort, Maricle became vice chairman of the Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

Whoever wins the primary will face Democrat Charles Wheatley in November’s general election.

Why should you be the next secretary of state?

Adams: “Four years ago, this was a paper-pushing office, we’ve offered big leadership in troubled times to make sure that Kentuckians can vote safely and securely. We’ve accomplished long desired conservative goals like photo ID to vote, cleaning up the voter rolls, a transition to paper ballots, expanded post election audits, a ban on ballot harvesting, …”

Knipper: “I think we’ve lost a lot of principles, and I think we’ve lost a lot of the original instruction or structure of the office. …We have a lot of centralization that’s gone on where Frankfort seems to be the end all and be all and the boss telling everybody else what to do.”

Maricle: “(Adams) disrespected a lot of Republicans when it came to the recounts this last primary.”

What are 2-3 of your key platform goals?

Adams’ primary goal is to prevent Kentucky from “going backwards,” he said. He wants to protect elections and gains secured in the past few years.

“You’ve got states going backwards on elections, you’ve got them cutting days and ways to vote,” he said. “In some cases, you’ve got them loosening their ballot integrity protocols. We’re the only state in America that’s got the right balance of access and security.”

Adams would also like to promote a culture of entrepreneurship, so that Kentucky is less dependent on out-of-state corporations for jobs or economic success.

The first item on Knipper’s list if elected is investigating several aspects of the current election system. He wants to remove the Electronic Registration Information Center system, which he believes is corrupt.

He also said he wants to clean up voter rolls to remove voters who moved out-of-state, have died or are disenfranchised for some other reason. In March, Adams said that 82 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have seen drops in voter rolls because of his clean up effort, but Knipper said he thinks Adams is lying.

Lastly, Knipper would “get to the bottom of what is with the electronic voting machines and exactly what happens when we scan our ballots,” he said.

“I always say on the campaign trail that we don’t control our own elections, and what I mean by that is, if you take your paper ballot and you put it into the machine and it digitizes itself, what happens between machine A and machine B? Nobody can tell me that.”

Maricle shares some of Knipper’s goals, including fixing overcounted voter rolls by restoring some local control to county clerks rather than centralizing election procedures at the state level.

“99.9% of the time, they know more of what’s better for their county than what a secretary of state does,” he said.

In his business role, Maricle would also ask for satellite offices across the state so Kentuckians with unreliable internet could take care of business registration and filings in person.

He said he would hold town hall meetings in 3-5 counties a month to hear Kentuckians’ problems and create an election integrity task force to look into big and small election issues.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

Adams said a vote for his competitors is a vote to repeal the increased voter access and security he’s overseen during his first term. He said he is the candidate who would maintain the “competence and professionalism” of the office.

“I’m running against a couple of knuckleheads who are proponents of conspiracy theories, who have made wild allegations about millions of our votes being manipulated, and all sorts of stuff,” he said. “They’re paranoid.”

Adams responded to the latest criticism that he and other third-party groups can look at early voting results before Election Day is over.

“That doesn’t happen. I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to get into a machine. It’s not really doable,” he said. “These machines, per law, are not zeroed out until the polls close election night, there’s no way to peek in there and see what the results are.”

Knipper said that Adams has tried to stop election recounts multiple times, which he thinks is suspicious.

“If I was proud of these machines, and I was really wanting people to believe and trust in them, I would open them up and say guys, have as many recounts as you want, these machines are the best in the world,” Knipper said.

When he served in the Kentucky legislature, Maricle sponsored a 1998 election bill that allowed voters who were in line by 6 p.m. to vote, no matter how long it took. Before, the polls closed at 7 p.m. no matter how many people were still in line.

He said his experience as the only candidate to pass election laws sets him apart.

What do you think are your chances of winning?

Adams: “Probably 50-50. …In a situation with 10% turnout, where you’ve got a really inflamed group of people that have been after me for four years, they’re motivated and they’re organized. I do worry that my base of people is more center right, and they’re a little more complacent and not quite as motivated.“

Knipper: “I wouldn’t waste my time if I didn’t think I was gonna win. I keep telling people that maybe the message was a little early 2015, maybe the message was a little early in 2019, but I think the message is right right now.”

Maricle: “I’ve just seen some recent polls. Hell, I’m holding my own.”

– Follow regional reporter Sarah Michels on Twitter @sarah_michels13 or visit bgdailynews.com.