Incumbent Adams defeats two candidates to win Kentucky’s Republican primary for secretary of state

Incumbent Michael Adams defeated two candidates—2015 Republican nominee Stephen Knipper and former state Rep. Allen Maricle—in the Republican primary for Kentucky secretary of state on May 16. Adams faces former state Rep. Charles Wheatley—the only candidate who ran for the Democratic nomination—in the general election on Nov. 7.

Adams was elected secretary of state in 2019, defeating Heather French Henry (D), 52% to 48%. He succeeded Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), who served two terms in the position from 2012 to 2020. Grimes was unable to run in 2019 due to term limits. Before Adams, the previous Republican secretary of state was Trey Grayson (R), who served from 2005 until 2012.

According to the state’s official website, the secretary of state is “responsible for business registration, preservation of state records, state election management, and other administrative, fiscal and personnel tasks.”

Adams received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville and a law degree from Harvard University. He previously worked in Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s (R) administration, in the U.S. attorney general’s office during George W. Bush’s (R) presidency, and as an attorney specializing in election law. He served on the Kentucky State Board of Elections from 2016 to 2020. Adams stated why he was running on his website: “We’ve done more in 3 years to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat than our predecessors were able to do in 200 years…I do not take this race for granted, nor should anyone who wants fair, free, accessible and secure elections.”

Knipper is the chief of staff for Kentucky Lieutenant Govenor Jenean Hampton (R). He was the Republican nominee for secretary of state in 2015, losing to Lundergan Grimes (D) in the general election, 51% to 49%, and he finished third in the Republican primary for the office in 2019. Knipper received a bachelor’s degree from Northern Kentucky University and previously worked as a business analyst and project manager for The Cincinnati Insurance Companies and Catholic Health Initiatives. He said he ran because “The election concerns I have had for nearly a decade are now recurring national news. The election topic is not going away this time, so I am dedicating myself once again to address it.”

Maricle is a political and broadcast television consultant and served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. Maricle received a bachelor’s degree from Sullivan University and previously worked as a sales manager for a magazine and several local television stations. Maricle said that he would “bring his extensive knowledge of elections and campaign finance to the forefront, and will work tirelessly to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.

Adams supported changes to Kentucky’s voting procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. Zach Montellaro of Politico wrote, “Kentucky earned measured praise from voting rights advocates for how it largely sidestepped the missing ballots, long lines and other problems faced by many states amid coronavirus. The Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state reached bipartisan agreement on a massive expansion of absentee voting, leading to the highest primary turnout in Kentucky since the hard-fought 2008 presidential primary.”

Adams also supported election administration legislation that Kentucky’s Republican-controlled General Assembly passed in 2021 and that Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed into law. “House Bill 564…creates additional in-person voting days, adds protections for poll workers, and codifies our existing policy of not connecting the voting machines to the internet.” “Senate Bill 216…doubling the number of counties subject to post-election audit, moving up the full transition to paper ballots, and placing voting machines under video surveillance when not being used.”

Jane Timm of NBC News wrote that Knipper stated in 2021 that “Donald Trump won the 2020 election and that he personally saw hackers manipulate U.S. election results online.” Timm also said Knipper “criticized the supercenters and early voting codified in the 2021 law and fought against the use of electronic voting machines.

Maricle believed there was fraud in Kentucky’s 2022 general election and said he would make the following changes to the state’s voting processes: “Clean up the voter rolls. Eliminate the ERIC system…look into the voter machine process and give counties more options to choose from. Give back local control to the county clerk’s. Create an office called Election Integrity Task force to look into every election complaint and give prompt answers to the public.”

The state’s membership in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) was also an issue in the campaign. According to Timm, Adams “doesn’t want to remove the state from ERIC…[and] said ERIC is a helpful tool in election administration.” Both Knipper and Maricle have said that Kentucky should withdraw from ERIC.

Additional reading:

Kentucky Secretary of State election, 2019

Kentucky Secretary of State election, 2015