In the city chambers where he spent 18 years serving on the Henderson Board of Commissioners, state Sen. Robby Mills was presented to a hometown crowd Wednesday afternoon as Republican gubernatorial candidate Daniel Cameron’s choice for running mate.
Statewide speculation had increased about who Cameron would pick as the Aug. 8 deadline to name a running mate neared. Many political observers believed Cameron would go with a candidate with greater name recognition, such as current Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who lost to Cameron in the primary.
But in the end Cameron went with Mills, saying his running mate’s “common sense and conservative values” were the determining factors and he could think “of no one else but the gentleman standing next to me” as his running mate.
“He knows what it is to stand for Kentucky values,” Cameron said Wednesday in Henderson.
Some of the stands Mills, 56, has taken, and led, have drawn ire. In the most recent General Assembly, Mills co-sponsored Senate Bill 150, probably the most contentious bill last session which opponents dubbed an “anti-trans” bill, and Senate Bill 4, which requires coal-fired power plant owners to obtain permission from the Public Service Commission to close those facilities even if they determine it would cost too much to keep them open.
And in 2018, votes on teacher benefits and education funding cast by Mills as a state representative incurred the anger of many educators, leading to a public protest outside his Henderson dry cleaning business, Nu-Look Cleaners.
But in his remarks Wednesday afternoon, Mills said the scrutiny he has faced for his support of these more contentious bills has prepared him for what’s sure to be a hardscrabble campaign trail.
“I am ready,” he said.
After Cameron introduced him, Mills bantered with the gathered group of friends and family, saying he was a bit nervous because his mother was there. Then he thanked his wife, Vickie, for supporting his 25 years of work in public service.
Quickly after, Mills went into campaign mode, criticizing Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, saying the governor doesn’t support Kentuckians’ values, that fewer Kentuckians are working now than when Beshear took office and that the governor doesn’t work across party lines, among other shortcomings.
Mills also critiqued the governor for taking sole credit in the recovery effort of tornado-ravaged western Kentucky, including Dawson Springs, the hometown of Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear. Dawson Springs is a part of Mills’ current Senate district, and Mills said he was a leader in the legislative push to approve measures aimed at helping the destroyed areas after the December 2021 tornado.
Local elected officials and civic leaders expressed excitement that one of Henderson’s own is running on the highest ticket in the state.
Judge-Executive Brad Schneider said the choice speaks to the level of work Mills has done at the state level, but also to the years he spent as a member of Henderson’s Board of Commissioners.
Sheriff Chip Stauffer echoed those thoughts, saying Mills gives the ticket additional credibility in western Kentucky.
“It speaks to what he did in Henderson County and in western Kentucky,” Stauffer said.
Bill Fidler, former president/CEO of Brenntag North America who is still active in local civic life, said Mills has excelled at representing this area because of his respect for Henderson and Henderson County. And he’ll be an advocate for Kentucky and its values, Fidler added.
“I think he’ll be our next lieutenant governor,” Fidler said.
Mills served as a city commissioner from 1998-2016. He then served in the Kentucky House of Representatives for two years, before moving into the state Senate in 2019. He easily won re-election last year.
Mills is the first Hendersonian to run for a statewide office since Sen. Bill Sullivan, who ran for lieutenant governor in the 1975 Democratic primary, losing to Thelma Stovall.
More recently, former Mayor Henry Lackey ran unsuccessfully against Tom Barlow in the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District Seat in Kentucky for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Cameron announced Mills as his running mate Wednesday morning in Frankfort. The pair also made a campaign stop in Bowling Green before arriving in Henderson around 2 p.m.