James Comer

Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

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.

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.

Jonathan Meador, Kentucky Public Radio

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.

Hal Heiner campaign

Hal Heiner leads other Republican candidates for this year’s gubernatorial election, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The former Louisville Metro Council member leads with 28 percent of the vote in a poll conducted by SurveyUSA for The Courier-Journal, WHAS, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WKYT. The poll surveyed 1,917 registered voters.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Matt Bevin tied for second with 20 percent of the vote. Bevin unsuccessfully ran last year as a tea party candidate in the Republican Senate primary. He was defeated by now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Heiner not only lead in the polls. According to financial disclosures, Heiner’s campaign is also millions of dollars ahead of the other GOP candidates.

According to his latest disclosure, Heiner has almost $3.5 million in his campaign coffers. So far, Heiner has donated more than $4 million of his own money to his campaign.

Greg Blair, Heiner’s new campaign spokesman,, said money and airtime is not what’s driving these numbers, though.

“I don’t think anyone has worked harder than Hal Heiner to get out and talk to people and listen to people and hear what they are concerned about,” Blair said.

Lisa Autry

Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer says passing a statewide right-to-work law would be his first priority if elected as Kentucky's next governor.

Comer, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner and a Monroe County native,  predicts the issue will be hotly debated during the general election, given that Democratic front-runner Jack Conway opposes such a law.

Right-to-work laws prohibit private-sector workers from being forced to join labor unions. Critics maintain they’re being used as a tool to crush labor organizations and drive down workers’ wages.

Comer says becoming right-to-work would help Kentucky compete for jobs against its neighbors.

“If you want to be considered a business-friendly state, one of the first things you have to do in your state is become right-to-work," Comer says.

Several Kentucky counties have passed, or are in the process of passing, local right-to-work ordinances. Marshall County this week became the first county in the state to pass a resolution denouncing right-to-work measures.

Gubernatorial Candidate Comer Makes it Official

Jan 22, 2015
Jonathan Meador

Republican James Comer says he will officially file for governor Thursday morning.

The first-term agriculture commissioner has been raising money since September along with running mate state Sen. Chris McDaniel from northern Kentucky. But Thursday will mark the official start of his 2015 campaign.

Comer will be the second Republican to file for governor following former state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott. Former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner also plans to run but has not officially filed yet.

Attorney General Jack Conway and former congressional candidate Geoff Young are the only Democrats to have filed so far. Candidates have until 4 p.m. Jan. 27 to file for statewide office.

With Kentucky’s gubernatorial primary four months away, candidates are beginning to line up endorsements.

Kentucky’s AFL-CIO chapter officially endorsed Democratic candidate and Attorney General Jack Conway Tuesday. Republican candidate and Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has been endorsed by former Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning.

Another GOP candidate, former Louisville Council Member Hal Heiner, this week aired the first television ad of the 2015 election cycle.

The spot touts Heiner’s experience in private business and says he would fight against federal mandatessuch as Obamacare and the Common Core educational standards.

Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott is also running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Secretary of State and former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes says she’s considering several options, including running for governor, attorney general , and a second term as Secretary of State.

Comer Takes Aim at Economic Development Efforts

Dec 5, 2014

Republican James Comer says he wants to eliminate state economic development incentives for companies that fail to pay livable wages.

The GOP candidate for governor said Thursday that Kentucky's Economic Development Cabinet has made "questionable deals" that included awarding tax incentives. Comer didn't define a livable wage but said it's higher than the minimum wage.

He said the Economic Development Cabinet would draw close scrutiny if he becomes governor.

Comer, the state agriculture commissioner, made the remarks to reporters after speaking to the Kentucky Farm Bureau's annual meeting.

Comer said he plans to talk about ways to reduce poverty in Kentucky. He said he wants to attract investment into areas in dire need of more jobs. He said one way to do that is to make Kentucky a right-to-work state.

Kentucky Farm Receipts Hit All-Time High

Nov 26, 2014
Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Sales receipts for Kentucky farmers reached record levels in 2013. The statistics were made available this week by the National Agriculture Statistics Service and showed the commonwealth's farmers raking in more than $5.6 billion dollars last year. 

It marked a 16 percent uptick from 2012. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer credits an excellent growing season, strong prices for crops, cattle and horses.

Kentucky’s top agriculture commodity: poultry and eggs, which accounted for $ 1.2 billion of the sales receipts. One sector of the agriculture industry that fell, however, was Kentucky tobacco crops which saw a one-percent decline.

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