Republicans nominate longtime Garrard County Attorney Mark Metcalf for state treasurer

Kentucky Republicans on Tuesday picked longtime Garrard County Attorney Mark Metcalf as their nominee for state treasurer.

Metcalf will face Democrat Michael Bowman of Louisville in the Nov. 7 general election.

A banker, Bowman lost in 2019 when he challenged the incumbent treasurer, Republican Allison Ball, who was seeking a second and final term. Ball is now running for state auditor.

Kentucky’s state treasurer only has a few formal bookkeeping duties, including depositing the state’s revenues, monitoring the state’s bank accounts, withholding the proper sum of taxes for state employees and managing the state’s unclaimed property fund.

The treasurer also sits on several boards and commissions responsible for large sums of public money, including those that oversee the Teachers’ Retirement System of Kentucky and the Kentucky Lottery.

On Tuesday, Metcalf defeated former deputy state treasurer O.C. “OJ” Oleka, 35, and Lexington businessman Andrew Cooperrider, 30, for the GOP nomination.

All three of the Republican candidates for treasurer this year criticized “woke” investments during their campaigns. They opposed state funds going to institutions that promote environmental or social-justice causes, a practice — controversial among conservatives — known as “ESG,” or environmental, social and governance and investing.

Some of the nation’s largest asset managers, including BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, have said they are reducing their investments in new coal projects. This has prompted some Kentucky Republicans, such as Ball, to call for a boycott of those corporations, particularly in regard to the state’s pension funds.

Metcalf, 64, holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army reserve after serving as a judge-advocate in Iraq and at other assignments.

In a recent interview, Metcalf said he wants state government to be smaller overall; focused on law enforcement and reducing its debts, such as the unfunded pension liabilities; and invested only in “Kentucky first” values, which rules out institutions that in any way hinder gun sales or the coal industry.

“I’m interested in preventing what I consider to be the woke interests in directing the application of funds toward woke objectives, and in particular, the movements that tell us we cannot mine coal or drill natural gas,” he said. “The same interests want to see tax revenues directed toward green technologies and toward the LGBTQ movements, which I think are contrary to the best interests of the state.”