James Comer


Campaign finance records filed last week reveal a late burst of six-figure donations to James Comer in his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for Kentucky governor last month, with similar sums going to a political organization aiming to defeat the eventual primary winner, Matt Bevin.

These latest records shed light on so-called “unauthorized campaign committees,” which can raise and spend money to support or oppose candidates — without the authorization of candidates themselves. Unlike personal donations that are capped at $1,000 in Kentucky, the committees can donate as much as they’d like.

According to candidates’ reports filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, two of these committees spent $743,250 during the period May 6-June 18, about half for Comer, half against Bevin.

Last month Bevin defeated Comer by 83 votes to win the Republican nomination to oppose Democrat Jack Conway in the Nov. 3 election for governor. A millionaire businessman from Louisville, Bevin received no support from unauthorized committees in the May-June reporting period.

omer’s 11th-hour boost came from Kentuckians for Growth, Opportunity & Prosperity, a committee headed by investment adviser and Republican fundraiser Richard Knock of Union, in Northern Kentucky. It gave Comer $315,000, mostly in the week before the primary. The money helped Comer pay for more than $300,000 in TV ads in May.

McConnell Will Endorse GOP Nominee for Governor

May 20, 2015

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said he will endorse Kentucky's Republican nominee for governor once the results are official.

Bevin leads state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by 83 votes out of the more than 214,000 ballots cast. Comer said he plans to ask state election officials to review the results.

McConnell and Bevin went head to head in last year's Republican primary for Senate, one of the few times McConnell has had meaningful opposition in a primary during his 30-year Senate career. McConnell easily defeated Bevin after a contentious campaign. Bevin refused to endorse McConnell publicly after the race, although he did urge Republicans to vote against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election.

McConnell defeated Grimes and is now the majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

After saying he would not comment on allegations that James Comer abused his college girlfriend, Republican candidate for governor Hal Heiner has a new TV ad that criticizes Comer and Matt Bevin for not protecting the woman.

The 30 second ad says Comer and fellow candidate Matt Bevin have accused Marilyn Thomas and her friends of lying and taking payoffs for their stories. Heiner urges voters to reject this kind of politics and elect someone with "Christian values."

The ad comes after a nonprofit group supporting Comer paid for a TV ad accusing Heiner of "gutter politics" for promoting the abuse allegations. Heiner apologized to Comer's campaign after the Lexington Herald Leader published emails showing Heiner's campaign had communicated with a blogger that has pushed the allegations for months in social media.

Candidates are escalating their attacks now that the election is days away and public polls show a three way tie.

One of every 10 registered voters in Kentucky is expected to vote in Tuesday's primary elections.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says the low turnout forecast is based on about 5,100 absentee votes cast and results from previous elections.

Attorney General Jack Conway is likely to win the Democratic primary for governor. Republicans Matt Bevin, James Comer, Hal Heiner and Will T. Scott are all vying for the Republican nomination. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

The Republican primary for governor has been contentious. Grimes said negative campaigning usually depresses turnout, citing Kentucky's 2014 U.S. Senate race as an example. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Grimes spent tens of millions of dollars on negative advertising in that race, not including spending from outside groups.

Two weeks ago, the Comer-McDaniel campaign saw nothing but fair skies as the candidates flew to four Kentucky cities in one day, rolling out the final planks of their “Plan For All Kentuckians.”

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, was still riding on the good news that his campaign had out-fundraised his opponents in the race for governor last quarter—more than $1 million dollars, three times what the three other Republicans raised combined.

At a stop at a charter flight company in Paducah, Comer addressed a small, packed room of supporters, and took a moment to recognize the attacks that had begun to cloud his campaign.

“I’m getting hit by a Republican because they said we’re a Frankfort insider,” Comer said after the press conference.

“We’re not running TV commercials blasting everybody in Frankfort right now, which is what the wealthiest of my four opponents is doing.”


Kentucky’s Republican gubernatorial candidates disagree specifically on what evidence proves that, according to them, climate change isn’t happening or influenced by human activity. During a debate on CN2 last month, candidates Will T. Scott and Hal Heiner prefaced their statements with “I’m not a scientist, but…” and Matt Bevin called climate science “fluff and theory.” But Agriculture Commissioner James Comer offered the most specific example.

“I do not believe in global warming. I’m the one person whose business and livelihood depends on Mother Nature, so I understand weather patterns,” he said, citing his farming experience. “We’ve had a very severe winter this year with 12-inch snows, so there is no global warming.”

Putting aside the science behind climate change, and the fact that nearly all climate scientists agree both that it’s happening and is influenced by human activity, it was a severe winter this year. Louisville got 27 inches of snow, which is 15 more inches than usual. But there are some key differences between weather and climate, especially as pertains to agriculture, and these nuances are missing in Comer’s remarks.

“Climate determines where we grow crops, weather determines how much we grow,” Jerry Hatfield said. He’s the director of the National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment, which is run by USDA.

He said  the climate is definitely changing. One of the manifestations of that changing climate is weird weather patterns.

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.


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.

James Comer leads all Republican candidates for governor with more than $800,000 raised from individual donors in the first four months of 2015.

But the state agriculture commissioner has been outspent nearly 3 to 1 by Hal Heiner, the former Louisville Metro councilman who loaned his campaign more than $4 million last summer. Louisville businessman Matt Bevin has also been a big spender, loaning his campaign $1.25 million after filing for office in January and spending more than $1 million, mostly on TV commercials.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott's report was not available.

Both Comer and Heiner have more than $1 million in the bank less than a month before the primary. Bevin has just over $286,000. The candidates are scheduled to appear together at the Rotary Club of Louisville on Thursday.

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.