2015 Election

A new statewide survey shows the Kentucky Republican primary for governor is a tossup between the top three candidates.

The Survey USA poll found Matt Bevin with 27 percent support, James Comer with 26 percent, and Hal Heiner with 25 percent. Will T. Scott trailed with just 8 percent support.

The poll describes the difference between the top three contenders as “not statistically significant”, and says the trio could finish one, two, and three in any order.

The survey polled 517 respondents who said they were registered Republicans and certain to vote in next week’s primary.

The GOP voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The survey was conducted for The Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV.

Abbey Oldham

Matt Bevin has done laps around Kentucky in a messy black suburban, searching for his big political break.

The search started last year with an unsuccessful  bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. It started anew this year with a campaign to be the party’s gubernatorial nominee.

“This is the campaign-mobile in all its splendor,” Bevin said during an interview in his SUV crammed with the candidate’s belongings.

“I’ve got suits for later tonight and stuff I’ve got signs and all kinds of things. This is where it’s at. This thing’s got 186,000-plus miles on it and a lot of lovin’—this is the family truckster.”

After all those miles, Bevin is hoping that big break finally come as the presumed Republican front-runners—former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer—duke it out in a nasty political fight.

Alix Mattingly, WFPL

Louisville businessman Matt Bevin and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer tag-teamed attacks against former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner on Wednesday during a debate of Republican gubernatorial candidates.

The debate hosted, by the radio program Kentucky Sports Radio, came less than two weeks before the May 19 primary and days after The Courier-Journal published an accusation of domestic abuse against Comer.

The candidates accused Heiner of surrounding himself with operatives who levy attacks against his opponents while Heiner himself avoids personal responsibility.

“Hal Heiner has surrounded himself with the surliest and sorriest group of people who have smeared and assassinated other people in this race, and he can sit here and tell people that he has said nothing but positive things,” Bevin said during the debate.

The debate proved to be the most heated exchange between the candidates so far. This was in part because moderator Matt Jones—known best for his adamant support of Kentucky Wildcats athletics—pressed candidates on issues surrounding allegations that Comer abused his college girlfriend.

Twitter

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer on Tuesday flatly denied published allegations that he abused a woman he dated in the early 1990s.

The Courier-Journal article, published Monday evening, included excerpts from a four-page letter written by a woman who alleged that Comer mentally and physically abused her while they were in a relationship at Western Kentucky University. The woman also alleged that Comer took her to a Louisville abortion clinic in 1991.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Comer, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, called the accusations “bizarre and untrue” and said he was considering filing a lawsuit against people “shopping the story,” and the newspaper.

“That the Courier-Journal is publishing this garbage is a reflection on them, not me. They should be ashamed of this Rolling Stone-style journalism,” Comer said.

Comer also questioned the timing of the story, which was published just after a debate of lieutenant governor candidates on KET and the night before a press conference in which Comer touted the success of Kentucky’s hemp industry.

A record number of Kentuckians are registered to vote just ahead of the primary election on May 19, the secretary of state’s office announced Monday.

Despite this, voter turnout in this year’s primary is still expected to be low, with estimates ranging from 15 percent down to the single digits.

Kentucky has 3,175,905 voters registered, up from 3,147,157 in the November general election last year—the state’s previous record for voters registered.

“I am excited to see that more and more Kentuckians are registering to vote, and I hope these newly registered voters will exercise their right and responsibility to vote in the primary election,” said Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who presides over elections in the state.

A little over 2.9 million people are registered as Republicans or Democrats, meaning they can vote in this month’s primary—which will decide which candidates end up on the November ballot for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and other statewide offices.

Another federal court has ruled that a Kentucky law that banned electioneering close to polling places violates free-speech rights.

A panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a judge's ruling that struck down the law.

The law was challenged by a northern Kentucky businessman after campaign signs were pulled from the yard of his auto body shop on election days in 2012 and 2014. He said the signs were removed by sheriff's deputies because they were within 300 feet of a polling place.

The appeals court panel said Kentucky officials failed to show why the state needs a no-political-speech zone much larger than the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld.

A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Jack Conway says the office is reviewing the ruling.

WKU

Three of Kentucky’s four GOP gubernatorial candidates are in Bowling Green Tuesday night for a debate at WKU.

Matt Bevin, James Comer, and Hal Heiner are scheduled to attend the event, which will focus on economic issues such as healthcare, taxes and spending, and job creation. Will T. Scott was also invited to attend, but has a scheduling conflict.

The debate at WKU is sponsored by the group Americans for Prosperity, which was founded by the conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch, as is co-sponsored by the WKU Political Science Department and National Review.

The debate begins at 7 pm Tuesday. The website handling the free tickets for the debate says they have all been given away.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says if he’s elected governor he’d essentially offer Kentucky students a $20,000 degree to University of Kentucky and University of Louisville if they can graduate in four years and then stay in the state.

Comer, who is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, on Thursday unveiled the education plank of his campaign.

Under his plan, students would be able to have the full amount of their tuition reimbursed through credits on their Kentucky tax returns if they stay in-state to work.

It currently costs over $44,000 to go to UK for four years and over $41,000 at U of L.

He said he’ll also push for an outcomes-based funding model that rewards Kentucky colleges for producing employable students.

He also wants to give employers who hire graduates of the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges a $2,000 tax credit per student.

To fund that initiative, he’d cut KCTCS administrative staffing budget by 10 percent to save $13 million a year, he said.

At a governor’s debate in Versailles on Wednesday, Comer said that putting more money in the K-12 education system isn’t going to ensure Kentuckians have a better education because of government inefficiency.

“The education dollars in Kentucky especially with respect to K-12 isn’t making it to the front lines, it’s getting eaten up by bureaucracy and administrative costs,” Comer said.

Last year the General Assembly passed a budget that increased K-12 funding by $189 million over two years.

Last year, critics argued that Kentucky students could not meet college and career readiness standards because of a lack of funding.

Republican candidates for Kentucky governor say presumptive Democratic nominee Jack Conway isn’t fit to serve because he would not fight a challenge to the state’s same sex marriage ban.

Conway refused to defend the ban last year, saying the law is discriminatory. Gov. Steve Beshear hired outside counsel to defend the law.

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, one of four Republicans seeking the party’s gubernatorial nomination, said not wanting to defend a law shouldn’t matter.

“It doesn’t matter if you agree with the constitution or not. When you take that oath to uphold the constitution, you represent the people of Kentucky,” Comer said.

Louisville businessman and Republican frontrunner Hal Heiner said that Conway should have been required to defend the constitutional amendment.

A political action committee supporting Republican James Comer is set to become the first outsidegroup to air TV ads in this year’s GOP gubernatorial primary.

Kentuckians for Growth, Opportunity, and Prosperity is planning to spend up to $475,000 in ads that will air in the Bowling Green, Louisville, and Lexington markets, along with $75,000 worth of radio ads.

CN2 Pure Politics reports the group describes itself as supporting “limited government” and an“unabridged right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” KCOP’s executive director declined to reveal the content of the ads.

Along with Comer, three other Republicans are running for governor: Matt Bevin, Hal Heiner, and Will T. Scott. Attorney General Jack Conway and former Congressional candidate Geoff Young are seeking the Democratic nomination.

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