Republican Michael G. Adams overcame a former Miss America’s high profile to win a term as Kentucky secretary of state.
Adams, an election-law attorney and longtime GOP activist, defeated Democrat Heather French Henry.
Adams said he believed Henry started the race with better name recognition owing in part to her tenure as Miss America 2000. She also is married to former state Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, a physician, and had experience in state government in the top two spots at the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
But Adams nullified that edge, touting gun rights and anti-abortion stances that are popular with many voters in deep-red Kentucky; tying Henry to Hilary Clinton, who is not popular in the state; and, as some analysts saw it, outworking Henry.
“We never stopped working,” Adams said during his victory speech.
Adams said he felt he had to work harder than Henry, outspend her and perform better in a debate to win. He said he felt a joint appearance on Kentucky Educational Television, in which Henry did not take firm positions on some issues, went well for him.
He also told the Herald-Leader that polling showed younger voters didn’t know Henry even though her name recognition and favorable rating was high among older voters.
Adams argued during the race that he was better suited than Henry to clean up corruption in Frankfort. He was referring to the criminal conviction against Jerry Lundergan, father of current Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, on federal election-finance violations, and also to allegations Grimes misused her office.
Adams said his top policy priority would be pushing to require a photo identification to be able to vote.
Some advocates have concerns that requiring a photo ID would make it harder to vote for some, such as people who can’t afford an ID.
To address those concerns, Adams said he would push for funding so that anyone qualified to vote would get a free ID.
Adams listed a number of other provisions he supports, including more locations for early-voting machines, making voting by mail easier, extending the deadline to switch party registration and improving election security.
Adams, of Jefferson County, has represented Republicans across the country, including Vice President Mike Pence’s election committee.
Grimes could not seek re-election. She decided against a run for governor this year.
The criminal charges against her father and the controversy surrounding Grimes’ office would have created obstacles for her in a campaign.
The Herald-Leader took part in stories this year that said Grimes pushed through a no-bid state contract for a political donor; had staffers search state election records for information on hundreds of people, including political rivals; and allegedly retaliated against employees of the Board of Elections who complained about her.
Grimes said she has done nothing wrong and that the accusations against her are politically motivated.
However, the controversy played a role in legislation that cut the secretary of state’s authority over the State Board of Elections.
Adams said that once Grimes is out of office the powers of the secretary of state should be restored, while Henry said it was wrong for the legislature to restrict the office.
The secretary of state is one of the smaller constitutional offices in Kentucky, with a budget of about $5 million and 35 employees. The salary is $124,113.
The office maintains state records, registers businesses and oversees elections.
Secretary of State
- Michael G. Adams 748,150
- Heather French Henry 684,186