WASHINGTON -- Kelly Knight Craft, a native of Glasgow, Kentucky, and top donor to President Donald Trump, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador to Canada Thursday. The vote was unanimous.
Craft, 55, is married to coal magnate Joe Craft, president of the Tulsa-based coal company Alliance Resource Partners. The couple gave $1.3 million to Republican candidates and SuperPACs last year, including a $265,400 contribution from Mrs. Craft to Trump Victory.
She runs a business consulting firm but is best known as a prodigious fundraiser, serving on Trump’s inaugural committee and raising money for several prominent Republican politicians over the years, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Former President George W. Bush named her to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in 2007.
Her late father, veterinarian Bobby Guilfoil of Glasgow, was a Democratic activist.
“I am humbled that President Trump and members of Congress have entrusted me with this responsibility to lead our engagement with such an important friend, ally and neighbor,” Mrs. Craft said in a text message.
Her appointment occurs at a tense time in U.S.-Canada relations. The countries are planning to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA, the pact that regulates foreign trade between the two countries. Trump has accused Canada of “taking advantage” of the United States under the pact.
Mrs. Craft’s coal connection could also complicate relations. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made phasing out coal-fired electricity a cornerstone of his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement. Trump is a champion of coal and has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris accord.
McConnell praised Mrs. Craft as a “proven advocate for our national interests.” He said she will enrich the long history of friendship between Canada and the U.S.
Mrs. Craft and her husband are both graduates of the University of Kentucky, and are generous contributors to the school. She was appointed to the university’s board of trustees by Gov. Matt Bevins a year ago. The Crafts served as co-chairs of his election campaign.
Mrs. Craft succeeds Bruce Heyman as the U. S. ambassador to Canada in Ottawa. At the request of Trump, he stepped down in January.
Details for this story were contributed by Ronnie Ellis, CNHI’s Kentucky state reporter.