DANVILLE — State Rep. Mike Harmon is running for the state's No. 2 post after getting the call last year from God and from David Adams, manager of Phil Moffett's gubernatorial campaign.
"I felt God tugging on my heart to run for a higher office," Harmon, a 44-year-old Danville Republican, said in a recent interview.
"I laid out some options, I thought about it, but I couldn't get a clear direction," he said. "Finally, I said, 'God, if this is what you want for me, you need to give me a clear direction.' Then, a week later, David Adams called me and asked, 'Mike, do you want to run for lieutenant governor?'"
Intrigued, Harmon agreed to sit down with Moffett. They found themselves in sync on many positions, including their opposition to abortion, taxes and big government.
Harmon said they make a complementary slate because Moffett is a businessman, not a politician, while Harmon has institutional knowledge of how Frankfort works.
First elected to the Kentucky House in 2002, Harmon is a loan officer with First Mortgage Co., a subsidiary of First Federal Bank in Lexington, and he sells insurance for Nationwide. He sits on the House Banking and Insurance Committee and sponsors bills related to his industries, which is not unusual in the legislature.
Harmon also is an investor and former executive vice president at Danville-based Grace Animation Studios. The studio was founded in 2003 in hopes of selling an animated cartoon — The Avenging Apes of Africa — as a television series, on DVD and in other formats.
Harmon, who has an interest in cartooning, said he put $20,000 of his own money into the studio and recruited several investors on behalf of chief executive Paul Christopher Turner. He said he quit a year later after getting only one paycheck.
"Christopher has had some problems," Harmon said. "I started to suspect that Christopher's fiduciary abilities were not what we had thought they were."
Several lawsuits have been filed against the studio alleging bank loan default, unpaid office rent and unpaid employee wages. Turner, who declined to comment for this article, said in a 2009 deposition that he faced at least $500,000 in liabilities and had only $500 to his name.
In the House, Harmon is a low-profile member of the minority party, chiefly known for opposing gay rights. He told church pastors in an April 11 campaign letter that "it has been my calling to be in place to defend Christian beliefs from the current tyranny which is prophesied in the Bible."
Earlier this year, for example, Harmon blocked an anti-bullying bill sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville.
Marzian wanted protection in Kentucky schools for gay and lesbian children, who told lawmakers that they routinely are harassed. Harmon filed an amendment to Marzian's bill that would allow students to criticize each other's sexual orientation as long as they do not resort to violence.
Harmon, a "born again" Baptist, said religious children have the right to express their opinions.
"Someone just in conversation says, 'You know, I think homosexuality is a sin,'" Harmon said in a television interview at the time. "We certainly don't want them to be labeled a bully."
Marzian blamed Harmon in part for her bill's demise. House leaders dropped it because they didn't want to get into a messy floor debate about religion and gay rights, she said.
"His amendment was problematic and catering to right-wing bigots," Marzian said recently. "They like to hide behind free speech when they say hateful things about gays and lesbians because their religion disapproves of them."
Harmon said his proudest legislative accomplishment so far has been pushing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage through the legislature, which voters ratified in 2004. He sponsored one of the relevant bills.
"People were circling the Capitol, inside and outside, praying. We all came together," he said.