Former Miss America Heather French Henry is seeking election as Kentucky’s Secretary of State.
Henry was elected as the democratic nominee for the Secretary of State position during May’s primary after winning over other hopeful candidates Jason Belcher, Jason Griffith and Geoff Sebesta.
After winning Miss America in 1999, Henry worked on behalf of veterans initiatives. According to her website, during her year of service in 2000 as Miss America, Henry worked with government officials on behalf of veterans and visited veterans in hospitals, homeless shelters and veterans services organizations.
Henry is the daughter of Ronnie French, a disabled Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War. She credits her father and his service as the reasoning behind her involvement in helping aid veterans.
She was honored for her work with veterans by late Congressman Lane Evarts and late Senator Paul Wellstone with the naming of the Heather French Henry Homeless Veterans Assistance Act, which encourages all federal, state and local departments and agencies and other entities and individuals to work toward the national goal of ending homelessness among veterans within a decade. It also established within the Department of Veterans Affairs the Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans.
Henry was appointed Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veteran Affairs by former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear in May 2014.
At the time Beshear said, “Heather is highly motivated and has vast experience assisting and creating programs for veterans throughout the Commonwealth and the nation.”
When elected, Gov. Matt Bevin asked that Henry maintain her role as Commissioner of Veteran Affairs. During her time as commissioner, Henry oversaw the completion of two facilities. Her department also fully developed its women's veterans program, restructured the homeless veterans program, and continued with the construction of a new veterans nursing center and a state veterans cemetery.
Henry says her number one priority if elected is making sure Kentucky’s voters feel safe.
“It takes experience to understand working with sensitive information in this digital world,” she has posted on her website.
She is a proponent of partnering with teachers to provide tools and programming to educate Kentucky’s students on the impact of government on their community.
“It is all too often that young people turn away from participating in government due to the toxic nature society has created surrounding politics,” according to a statement on her website.
Henry supports the automatic restoration of voting rights to non-violent, non-treasonous offenders who paid their debts to society.
“Disenfranchisement laws disproportionality impact people of color," she says on her website. "Twenty-five percent of black men in Kentucky are disenfranchised--that means one in four black men have no say in the political process.”
Henry says it’s essential that the Secretary of State partners with county clerks. She says she will make voting easier, and apply for grants for county clerks to get up-to-date election equipment.
She believes in extending polling hours on Election Day, and is in favor of creating an early voting period that would start two Saturdays before Election Day as a way to increase voter turnout. She says she is in favor of no excuse absentee voting.
“To accomplish these goals, I will partner with all 120 county clerks to determine the resources they need to successfully implement these reforms to make voting more accessible for all Kentuckians,” she said.
Henry wants to expand the business services that the Secretary of State’s office provides. She says because of her experience of working through the business filing process, she wants to streamline information to create a broader awareness of the other services offered to businesses throughout the state.
She says she would also like to make Kentuckians more aware of the historic document preservation service that the Secretary of State is responsible for.
Henry has won multiple awards throughout her professional and political career. She was named Today Magazine’s Most Admired Woman award, she’s won a Humanitarian Award by AMVETS, the Martha Washington Spirit Award and the EEO Employment Diversity Award among others.
Henry is a native of Maysville and Augusta, Kentucky. She is a graduate of University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. She is marred to former Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky Dr. Stephen L. Henry.
Henry’s campaign office was contacted for a request for an interview and was emailed questions for this article. No responses were received.
Henry will run against Republican Michael Adams in November’s general election.