Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is challenging leaders in eastern Kentucky to open their eyes to the state’s declining coal economy.
Comer is Kentucky’s only Republican statewide constitutional officer. He has led the effort to make industrial hemp legal in the state and is also considered a possible candidate for governor in 2015.
Comer recently told a group of farmers in Eastern Kentucky that he “cannot be controlled” by party bosses.
He says leaders in Appalachia need to understand that coal production is decreasing and they should begin discussing new economic opportunities.
“A lot of leaders in Eastern Kentucky keep talking about ‘coal is the answer and there is a war on coal.’ I’m a friend of coal," said the Monroe County Republican. "I support the coal industry. But the coal industry’s future doesn’t look bright and we have to look beyond that and learn to develop a new economy in Eastern Kentucky. And I believe that we need to be less dependent on the government."
Comer says he isn’t targeting any leaders in particular with his comments.
But many point to Comer’s ongoing rivalry with Congressman Hal Rogers, who opposes hemp legalization. Political commentators have said Rogers is urging former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner to run governor, but the congressman denies that.