FRANKFORT Kelly Craft, a prominent Republican fundraiser, wife of coal company owner Joe Craft and former Glasgow resident, is President Donald Trump’s choice for the next ambassador to Canada.
The news was first reported on Twitter by Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs early Wednesday evening, although the Toronto-based newspaper, The Globe and Mail, first reported in March that Craft, 55, would be nominated for the post. The White House was expected to confirm the report on its website Wednesday night.
Craft, 55, still must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, but with fellow Kentuckian and Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell leading the Senate, that’s not expected to be a problem.
Craft is married to Joseph Craft III, CEO of Tulsa based coal company Alliance Resources Partners and the couple was donors to the Trump campaign.
After thanking Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Craft promised to “work hard every day to build on the strong, dynamic relationship that the United States and Canada have enjoyed for our entire history together.”
The appointment comes at a time the Trump administration is seeking a new round of talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA.
Canada is led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has questioned Trump’s stance on global warming and the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions. The appointment of the wife of a major coal company executive highlights the differences between the two nations on the issue.
But Craft accentuated the common interests of the two countries in a statement provided to CNHI News.
“When it comes to Canada and U.S. relations, one thing is clear,” Craft said. “We have so much that ties us together,” pointing to the proximity of cities along the border between the two countries.
“This is an exciting time in the history of Canadian-U.S. relations and I am looking forward to helping advance our partnership,” said Craft.
Craft grew up in Glasgow, the daughter of Democratic activist and veterinarian Dr. Bobby Guilfoil and his wife, Dale, who are both now deceased.
Nonetheless, their daughter became a prominent fundraiser for Republican candidates, leading to her being named a “Pioneer” fundraiser for George W. Bush. Bush appointed her to serve as an alternate delegate to the United Nations in 2007.
Craft told CNHI News in 2007 for a story on her UN appointment that her parents, both ardent Democrats, taught her the kind of values and independence that allowed her to make her own decisions and develop her own political philosophy.
“That’s just the way I was raised,” she said. “I just kind of evolved in my philosophy.”
The 1980 graduate of Glasgow High School holds a B.A. from the University of Kentucky and she has served on numerous non-profit boards as well as serving as an Executive Committee Member of the Republican Governors Association, Kentucky Finance Chair for the Republican National Committee.
Joe and Kelly Craft also served as co-chairs of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s Inaugural Committee and were chaired 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Kentucky campaign. She is also a member of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees.
The Crafts also co-founded the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at Morehead State University.
The Crafts have also donated significant sums to the University of Kentucky athletics department, including money for the basketball players’ dormitory and practice facility and they are close to UK men’s basketball coach John Calipari.
"I'm so happy for Kelly and this opportunity for her and Joe Craft,” Calipari said. “I've known Kelly for a long time. She has an unbelievable ability to connect with people on both sides of the table. She'll do a great job representing our country with a very important ally."