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.
Jonathan Meador's report on Tuesday's announcement by Jack Conway
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.
A prominent Republican says former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner will kick off his campaign for Governor Tuesday in Lexington, joining with another urban Republican for his running mate.
Former state GOP chairman Bob Gable says Heiner will introduce former Lexington-Fayette County Councilwoman KC Crosbie as his running mate. Crosbie ran for state treasurer in 2011, narrowly losing to Democratic incumbent Todd Hollenbach. Gable said Crosbie is an excellent campaigner and said Heiner's selection of her for the ticket is "ingenious."
Gable says he believes Heiner will be the Republican nominee for Governor and that he showed his vote-getting ability in the 2010 mayoral race in Louisville. Heiner lost a hard fought campaign in that 2010 race and also served two terms on the Louisville Metro Council.
A newly-formed Super PAC will target Kentucky House races this fall in an effort to win a GOP majority in that chamber.
New Direction Kentucky is a nonprofit founded by former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner, who is rumored to be a GOP contender for next year's governor’s race.
Currently, Democrats retain a narrow majority in the House, with 54 seats to the Republicans’ 46.
New Direction Kentucky spokesman Joe Burgan says the group will not directly give money to campaigns, but will raise funds to purchase ads in contested races come November.
“We will do grassroots work; we will do paid media; we will do earned media. So that’s TV, radio, mail. Working with the press. To really do everything we can to get these candidates across the line," Burgain said.
The group is comprised of business and political luminaries, including Humana founder David Jones.
Burgan did not say how much money the group intends to raise.
Kentucky's Attorney General continues to say he's strongly considering a run for governor.
Democrat Jack Conway was in south-central Kentucky Wednesday, addressing students and civic groups about issues including the state's prescription drug abuse problems.
After a speech to the Noon Rotary Club in Bowling Green, Conway told reporters there are other races that deserve the spotlight ahead of the 2015 gubernatorial election.
"With the Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign underway, they deserve a few quarters under their belt before a governor's race lands on top of them," Conway said. "But I would think that by the spring of next year, whoever's running for governor ought to be starting a fundraising operation to put together the resources necessary."
Grimes is challenging Republican Senator Mitch McConnell in next year's much-talked-about Kentucky Senate race. Conway told his Bowling Green audience that coal will continue to be an important source of energy for the region, and that the state must continue to step up its fight against prescription pill abuse.
WKU Public Radio's interview with Agriculture Commissioner James Comer
Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner says Republicans need to focus on the economy in order to win statewide office, as opposed to stressing social issues.
In an interview at WKU Public Radio Wednesday, James Comer said the GOP has alienated a lot of key voting groups by making hot-button social topics the cornerstone of their campaigns.
“I’m proud to be a social conservative, but I’m not going to run any campaign in the future—regardless of what I run for—specifically on social issues. That has driven off young voters, and that has driven off female voters.”
Comer’s comments echo much of what Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul has said recently about the future of the GOP, and the party’s need to become more attractive to groups of voters that will determine Republicans’ future electoral prospects.
Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor says he is taking a pass on running for governor in 2015.
Speaking Tuesday afternoon to the Elizabethtown Rotary Club, Democrat Jerry Abramson said he wants to spend his remaining two-and-a-half years in Frankfort as an education advocate.
"You don't need to be an elected official to be a public servant," the former Louisville mayor told reporters after his speech. "I see myself really getting involved in public service by advocating for kids, by speaking out, by meeting with parents."
Abramson had previously said he was considering a gubernatorial bid. He told his Hardin County audience Tuesday that he wants to be an "education warrior" who helps the commonwealth develop a more skilled and educated workforce.