2015 Election

Abbey Oldham

The Republican who challenged Senator Mitch McConnell in this year’s GOP primary tells the Associated Press that he’s strongly considering a run for governor.

Louisville businessman and Tea party activist Matt Bevin won 35 percent of the Republican Senate vote in May, following a campaign in which he portrayed McConnell as too moderate. If Bevin joins the 2015 gubernatorial contest, he’ll enter a G-O-P contest that includes Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner.

Warren County Republican Party chairman Scott Lasley says he doesn’t think a Republican candidate has to wear the Tea Party label to win the party’s nomination next year.

But the WKU Political Science Professor thinks it will be important for GOP candidates to at least reach out to grassroots organizations ahead of the primary.

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Will the enduring popularity of former UK basketball star and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer affect the gubernatorial aspirations of Farmer’s successor, James Comer?

The man who ran for governor on a slate with Farmer says he doesn’t think that the gubernatorial campaign of Farmer’s successor will be affected by backlash over Farmer’s corruption investigation and conviction. 

Former Republican state Senate President David Williams unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2011 with Farmer as his running mate, losing handily to incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear and his running mate, Jerry Abramson.

Williams, now a Circuit Court Judge, made a show of support at the Comer campaign’s kick-off event Tuesday in Tompkinsville.

 Update: 12:50 p.m. 

James Comer has selected Republican State Sen. Chris McDaniel as his running mate. McDaniel's Northern Kentucky district covers part of Kenton County.

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Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner will go home to formally kick off his 2015 campaign for governor.  James Comer will roll out his campaign and announce a running mate Tuesday in his native Monroe County.

"I want to be a governor for all Kentuckians and there are so many parts of this state that are forgotten about by Frankfort," Comer told WKU Public Radio.  "I'm proud of Tompkinsville, I'm proud to be from a small town,  and I'm proud of my friends and family.  I think if you want to know something about a candidate, go to their hometown and see the people they grew up with, their former teachers, friends, classmates, and business partners, and ask 'What kind of guy is this?'"

Comer served as a state representative for 11 years before being elected Agriculture Commissioner in 2012.  Many of the reforms he brought to the troubled Agriculture Department will be part of his gubernatorial platform.

Comer announced last month that he was running for Governor, and is joined by fellow Republican Hal Heiner and Democrat Jack Conway as candidates who have formally announced gubernatorial intentions.

Warren County Republican Party Chairman Scott Lasley says Comer’s time as Agriculture Commissioner gave him the opportunity to travel the state and build up contacts that could benefit him during his run for governor.

Hal Heiner campaign

Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner says he isn’t sure whether burning fossil fuels like coal contributes to climate change.

 Heiner spoke to Kentucky Public Radio at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s country ham breakfast last Thursday, saying that he’s on the fence when it comes to climate science.

“I don’t have a scientific position, on contribution or not, but what I do know is … if we’re going to stay economically competitive in a global marketplace, we have to burn coal,” said Heiner.

Heiner recently attacked his primary opponent, Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, over comments he made last year that the state needs to move “beyond coal.”

Lisa Autry

Commissioner James Comer says many of the reforms he brought to the Kentucky Agriculture Department are needed across state government.  The gubernatorial candidate was in Bowling Green Friday speaking to the group Leadership Kentucky. 

Since taking the reins in 2012, Comer talked about how the Agriculture Department has become more accountable, transparent, and efficient which he said will be talking points on the campaign trail.

"The next governor will have to make some tough decisions.  The next governor will have to pay for this Medicaid expansion and find a way to infuse money into this pension system that threatens to bankrupt the state," explained Comer.  "We're going to go back to the Department of Agriculture on how we've saved money and shrunk the size of our government agency while doing more for the taxpayers because that's what we're going to have to do in all of state government in the future."

After the speech, Comer declined to comment on rumblings that he has picked State Senator Chris McDaniel as his running mate. 

"I'll say this about State Senator Chris McDaniel.  I'm a big fan of his.  He's had huge success in the private sector with a business he started," added Comer.  "In my opinion, he's proven himself to be one of the smartest guys in Frankfort.  He's passionate about finding waste, fraud, and abuse in state government and I think that's something the next administration is going to have to take seriously."

Comer will officially launch his gubernatorial bid and announce his running mate September 9 in his hometown of Tompkinsville. 

Louisville businessman Hal Heiner is also seeking the Republican nomination for governor.  Attorney General Jack Conway is the only announced Democratic candidate in the 2015 race.

Joseph Lord, Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer officially announced his bid for governor at the 134th annual Fancy Farm political picnic, becoming the third candidate to do so in the 2015 race and setting the stage for a Republican primary battle against a former Louisville Metro councilman in the process.

"It's been my dream come true to be your commissioner of agriculture. And I view the people of Western Kentucky as our family. So T.J. and I have chosen this time, and this place, to say to all of you, I will be a candidate for governor in 2015," Comer said.

The anticipated announcement now pits Comer, a Republican who succeeded Richie Farmer in 2012, against Hal Heiner, a Republican who narrowly lost to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in a 2010 election.

Comer says he’s yet to select a running mate, but will do so once he officially files his candidacy papers on Sept. 9.

A new poll suggests the race to decide Kentucky’s next governor, it’s still very much up for grabs.

Data from a recent Bluegrass poll shows a plurality of Kentucky voters have either “no opinion” or are neutral toward three gubernatorial candidates, including Attorney General Jack Conway; former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner; and Agriculture Secretary James Comer, whom is expected to announce his candidacy this weekend at the Fancy Farm political picnic in West Kentucky.

Notably, the poll suggests Conway is trailing Heiner and Comer among African Americans, with a negative favorability rating of eight points.

The poll surveyed 714 registered voters, and reported a margin of error just under 4 percent.

Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

The list of confirmed 2015 Kentucky candidates for governor grew Tuesday, when Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway announced he was running for the office.

He joins Republican and former Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner, who announced earlier this year his gubernatorial bid.

Kentucky political observers will now turn their attention on a handful of other potential candidates for governor.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo has said he is strongly considering a run for Governor, but only if Democrats hang on to their majority in the state House.

Stumbo was the running mate for gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lundsford in 2007, a ticket that lost the primary to Steve Beshear and Daniel Mongiardo.

Other potential Democratic 2015 candidates include state Auditor Adam Edelen and former U.S. Congressman Ben Chandler, who is currently executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Former state Auditor Crit Luallen announced last month that she won’t run for governor.

On the Republican side, the most high-profile would-be candidate appears to be Agriculture Commissioner and Monroe County farmer James Comer.

Kentucky Congressman Brett Guthrie says he strongly considered running for governor next year, but ultimately decided against it for family reasons.

The Bowling Green Republican told students at Daviess County High School Monday that he believes he would have “had a good chance” at winning the race.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports Guthrie said he didn’t want to be campaigning across the state during his 16-year-old daughter’s last few years at home.

Guthrie was first elected as Kentucky’s Second District Congressman in 2008 after serving in the Kentucky state Senate.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway officially announced in a video press release on Tuesday his candidacy for governor, adding that he has tapped House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, as his running mate.

“Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and continue to move Kentucky forward, and we begin doing that by building a great team. The strength of this gubernatorial ticket is bolstered by Rep. Sannie Overly’s record of accomplishments.”

Conway has served as the state’s Attorney General since 2008. Overly, a Democrat from Paris, was first elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 2008, and in 2013 became the first woman in state history to be elected Caucus Chair by House Democrats.

“As governor, Jack will fight for better jobs, to fix our schools, and to help our families confront the economic struggles they face every day,” Overly said in a statement. “Jack has refused to back down from the toughest fights and he has won. Together, we will work hard to build Kentucky’s future.”

Conway is the first Democrat to announce his candidacy in the 2015 gubernatorial election; former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner, a Republican, threw his hat into the ring earlier this year. Former Lexington urban-county council member K.C. Crosbie is Heiner's running mate.

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