Four Republican candidates are on the ballot for the position of Secretary of State in the upcoming primary election on May 21. They are Michael Adams, Andrew English, Stephen Knipper and Carl Nett.
The winner of the primary will face off with the Democratic winner in the November 6 election. The Democratic candidates running for the position of Secretary of State are Jason Belcher, Jason Griffith, Heather French Henry and Geoff Sebesta.
The Republican candidates are listed below in alphabetical order.
Michael Adams grew up working-class in Paducah, and he attended public school and was the first to get a bachelor's degree in his family. He went on to become a McConnell Scholar at the University of Louisville then attending Harvard Law School on low income aid.
Adams now has a national Republican election law practice where he represents Vice President Mike Pence, the Republican Governors Association, the National Federation of Republican Women and many conservative candidates and organizations which, according to Adams, makes him the only candidate for the position as chief election official with election experience.
With the recent legislature that was passed scaling back the control that the Secretary of State has on the State Elections Board, Adams hopes to clear the name of the SOS office.
"I consider the SOS office to be on probation, and would like to sufficiently restore confidence in this office that its powers will be returned, as it benefits the state to have strong executive leadership in running our elections," he said.
If he is elected he wants to firstly implement a photo ID requirement in Kentucky elections, which currently is not required by law. Secondly, he wants to clean up our voter rolls of all deceased and nonresident voters and improve cybersecurity at local polling sites in cooperation with our county clerks.
Andrew English graduated from South Oldham High School in 2000 and went on to Hofstra University where he obtained his bachelor's degree in political science and communications in 2004, a masters in communications from Hofstra University in 2005, a juris doctorate from The College of William and Mary in 2010 and finally a masters of public policy from The College of William and Mary in 2010.
In 2009, while still in law school, English joined the Navy, serving on active duty until 2016, and reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
For the last three years, English has been the general counsel for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet serving over 40 attorneys, investigators and paralegals, something he says will make him a good fit.
English also referenced the recent violations in the SOS office saying that it was going to take a leader to rebuild what it was, and that he had the skills to do it.
"My background from education and time in the military and time running an office larger than the SOS office makes me a good leader and manager that would restore trust and face in those offices with the clerks," he said.
He hopes that if elected, he will be able to give a voice to the county clerks, and support them to run their own elections. He also wants to get a grant to be able to redo voting machines.
"It's been almost 20 years since we have updated our voter booths and we are facing new threats every year with hacking in voting," he said. "In this position, I want to be a management role -- to build a team, manage a team and implement vision."
Four years ago, when Steve Knipper ran against the current Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes, he noticed signs of improper voting practices and saw the potential hacking threats that voters were open to from a lack of cyber security.
Now that he is up for election again, he wants to tackle those same issues, and says that he is the only candidate with the technological experience to do so.
"I was the one who caught it in 2015, and look now it's one of our top issues in 2019," he said. "I am the one that will be able to fix it."
Knipper, of Independence, graduated from Covington Catholic High School and earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Northern Kentucky University.
Knipper was an underwriter with Cincinnati Financial from 1995 to 2004 and a project coordinator with Midland until 2005 and has worked as a project manager with Mercy Health Partners. He has previously served on the Erlanger City Council and the Kenton County Board of Adjustments.
Until the end of January, he had served as the chief of staff for Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton since 2015.
"The only issue in this election is cleaning up voter rolls and clean up the work flow," he said. "I called what are now the top issues of 2019 in 2015, and I have the technical expertise to develop a plan to do so."
He said that he hopes to be able to introduce voting in real time for veterans on election day, as they often cast their ballots and they are left to sit in an office for months at a time.
"This needs to be a non-partisan administrative office," he said. "As secretary of state you literally, in military terms, the highest ranking official, but in this aspect, it is meant to be administrative. You are the person for voting, business filings and getting people to vote and do the number one function of getting 100% of the voter rolls clean, and I am the only person who can do that."
Carl Nett is a Kentucky native who left the Commonwealth shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when hired by the U.S. Secret Service. He graduated first in class from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, and first in class from the U.S. Secret Service Academy in Beltsville, Maryland.
In 2008, after nearly six years with the Presidential Protective Division, he resigned his commission when recruited onto a contract with the CIA working within the CIA's National Clandestine Service.
Several years later in 2011, Nett was asked by the Pentagon to lead a specialized unit at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There, Nett came face-to-face with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the so-called "mastermind" of 9/11 and the terrorist personally responsible for the execution beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
Nett says that out of the other seven candidates, regardless of party, he is the only trained criminal investigator and intelligence officer with top secret clearance, saying that if elected, he can demand and receive any and all classified threat data related to election security.
He added, "The Secretary of State position is an administrative job, and I am the most effective administrator in this race, and one of the most effective administrators in the country, having overseen one of the most sensitive and politically charged operations of the U.S. Government at Joint Task Force Guantanamo."
As Chief Election Official, Nett says his highest priority will be the implementation of a photo identification law and overall election security, while also restoring working relationships with all of the state's county clerks.
"I have a plan, already approved by the Supreme Court, to purge Kentucky's voter rolls of deceased, non-resident and illegal alien registrants," he said. "Currently, 48 counties in Kentucky have more registered voters than voting-age citizens. We must eliminate this pathway to voter fraud."
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.