Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Kentucky’s political suspense for the remaining spot on the November ballot officially ended at 9:30 Wednesday morning as the Republican candidate for governor, Daniel Cameron, announced his running mate for lieutenant governor—State Senator Robby Mills from Henderson. The pick couldn’t have been any better.

Most Kentuckians outside the political world are hearing Mills’ name for the first time, but I’ve known him for 24 years as a man of integrity, family values, and deep convictions. Just as important, is that he’s the same individual in his personal life as he is in public.

Cameron said he “was looking for a true conservative with a strong track record of getting things done. Someone who shares our values and fights for what’s right.” That track record goes back to 1999 when I first met Mills who served on the Henderson City Commission. We opposed a controversial ordinance that would’ve infringed on religious freedom. Even though we lost that particular battle, Mills successfully led the efforts to rescind the divisive ordinance in 2001.

Mills cut his political teeth in local government, serving eight terms on the Henderson City Commission where he worked to improve infrastructure and meet the needs of his community. In 2016, he took a risk and challenged popular Democratic State House incumbent, David Watkins (D-Henderson). Mills upset victory contributed to a Republican majority that ended the nearly 100 year reign of Democrats in the State House. In 2018, Mills challenged another popular incumbent Democrat—Senator Dorsey Ridley (D-Henderson). He beat Ridley, the well connected and well funded Senate Democrat Minority Leader, by less than 500 votes. Mills handily won a second state Senate term last year with 66 percent of the vote.

Mills is the only candidate on the ballot from West Kentucky, an oft-neglected part of the state. He spearheaded a law in 2020 requiring picture ID at the polls. Most recently, he stopped teacher’s unions from automatically deducting union dues from teachers’ paychecks. But Mills may best be know for deftly leading on social issues, including the 2022 Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The bill protects female athletes from being forced to compete against biological males. Gov. Beshear vetoed the bill and said the [bill was passed] “without presenting a single instance in Kentucky of a child gaining a competitive advantage as a result of sex reassignment.” Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate disagreed and overturned that veto.

One of the challenges of holding office and wielding power and influence is to not forget who you are and the reason why you ran for office in the first place. Mills has navigated the challenge well. His wife Vickie of 34 years has helped keep him grounded. Both have worked together in their family dry cleaning business called Nu-Look Cleaners. They’ve successfully raised three children and have one grandchild. Their son Noah is now handling day to day operations in the dry cleaning business.

Sen. Mills’ entrepreneurial endeavors and business background tempers a frequent political tendency for government officials to be intrusive. Mills has had to make a payroll for three decades. And his commitment to the workers he employs, and the overall service his business provides, is a daily reminder that government, while necessary, must also get out of the way to let entrepreneurs and small business owners efficiently accomplish their goals and provide community needs.

Mills has actively participated in his nondenominational church called One Life and various nonprofits. His involvement at various levels includes a Christian ministry called YoungLife, Marsha’s Place Pregnancy Care Center, and The Salvation Army. His work with the Audubon Kids Zone in a part of town with socioeconomic and crime issues, shows what community-minded people can do to help struggling families and children succeed. Full disclosure, he was also a founding board member of Commonwealth Policy Center in 2012.

Most importantly, Robby has been a good friend. Daniel Cameron summed it up best in the press conference when he said “As your Attorney General I’ve shown I will always defend Kentucky values and I’ve found that same conviction in Robby Mills who will be Kentucky’s next Lieutenant Governor. Robby Mills is a strong conservative with a history of beating legacy Democrats in a historically strong Democrat region. He is a respected state senator, business-owner, and man of faith.”