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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.

The running mates in Kentucky's contentious Republican primary for governor tested their candidates' messages before a statewide television audience Monday night in the first of two pivotal debates ahead of the May 19 election.

The debate was overshadowed early by tensions between the campaigns of James Comer and Hal Heiner. Chris McDaniel, Comer's running mate, attacked Heiner running mate KC Crosbie for her and her husband's contact with a blogger that has accused Comer of committing a crime while in college. The allegation is unproven and Comer has denied it. McDaniel took the contact personally, noting that the same blogger has made threatening comments online toward his children in the past.

Kevin Willis

Kentucky's two U.S. senators have introduced legislation they say will level the playing field for American bourbon and whiskey producers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office said in a news release Monday that unlike most other spirits, bourbon and whiskey producers must capitalize interest expense that's incurred to finance inventories and it isn't deductible until the product is sold, as long as 23 years after the liquor is aged. The release said in the U.K., spirit producers may deduct interest the year it's capitalized.

McConnell and Sen. rand Paul on Monday introduced a bill that would allow American bourbon and whiskey makers to deduct interest associated with production in the year it's paid.

McConnell said more than 15,000 jobs in Kentucky are related to the bourbon industry, which produces billions of dollars for the state's economy.

Ashley Lopez, WFPL

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul’s efforts to appeal to minority voters hit a rough patch over the past week.

The junior senator from Kentucky made some off-hand comments during the peak of unrest in the city of Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray—a black man who died in police custody. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently said there is probable cause to file criminal homicide charges against six police officers following Gray’s death.

Paul told a conservative talk show host Tuesday he was glad his train didn’t make a stop in Baltimore during the riots and protests there.

There was almost immediate backlash, mostly from minority groups.

But later in the week, Paul said there was nothing to apologize for.

“My comments I think were misinterpreted in some ways,” he told reporters during a small event in Buckner on Friday.

Kentucky LRC

Groups trying to influence lawmakers at the Kentucky General Assembly spent 11% more this year than they did two years ago—which was the last time the legislature met for a 30 day session.

This year, companies spent nearly $7 million in lobbying and advertising, up from $6.2 million in 2013.
According to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, much of that increase came from a new requirement that lobbyists report spending on advertising.

The top spender for the entire session was Anheuser-Busch, which spent $380,000 on lobbying against a bill that sought to prevent out-of-state brewers from owning distributors in-state. That law ultimately passed.
Their opponents in the beer battle, a craft-beer lobby group called Kentuckians for Entrepreneurs and Growth, was also a top spender, dropping over $130,000 on lobbying and advertising.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex-marriage bans.

Less than a month shy of the primary election, three of Kentucky’s four Republican gubernatorial candidates debated Tuesday night in Bowling Green. 

The event at WKU featured Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, and former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner. 

If elected, all three pledged to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange known as Kynect. 

Comer said the state took on a lot of responsibility that it can’t afford.

"Eighty-two percent of the people who got on Kynect ended up on Medicaid," Comer explained.  "What Kynect became for Governor Beshear was a way to greatly expand Medicaid to the point to where we have 25 percent of the state on Medicaid, one out of four people.  That's not sustainable."

As governor, Comer said he would get more Kentuckians into private health coverage while changing eligibility requirements for Medicaid. 

Matt Bevin said he would transition those who signed up on Kentucky’s exchange to the federal exchange.

"Frankly, it's a level of redundancy we can't afford.  It's as simple as that," Bevin suggested.  "We were lured into participation through the use of federal dollars."

Starting in 2017, the state must begin bearing a share of the cost of expanding Medicaid.  Currently, the federal government is picking up the entire tab.

Hal Heiner suggested tying the Medicaid expansion to workforce training so people could get a job, get off of Medicaid, and obtain private insurance.  He criticized the Medicaid expansion for lacking any level of personal responsibility.

"It doesn't have what you're seeing conservative governors in other states adopt in their plans which build in incentives to use preventive care, to use primary care providers rather than emergency care, and to make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the overall cost," Heiner stated. 

The candidates were mostly in agreement on range of economic topics from making Kentucky a right-to-work state to protecting the coal industry. 

The other GOP gubernatorial candidate, Will T. Scott did not attend the debate, citing a scheduling conflict.

Of the 138 members of the Kentucky General Assembly, 107 have signed a brief in support of Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage, which is part of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court today.

The amici curiae, or “friends of the court,” brief is signed by 76 of 100 members of the Democrat-led House and 31 out of 38 members of the Republican-led Senate.

The legislators argue that states have the right to define marriage as being between one man and one woman and that heterosexual married couples are optimal for raising children.

“Raising of children by same-sex couples, who by definition cannot be the two sole biological parents of a child and cannot provide children with a parental authority figure of each gender, presents an alternative structure for child rearing that has not yet proved itself beyond reasonable scientific dispute,” the lawmakers argue in the brief.

The brief is signed by 37 out of 65 Democrats in the legislature—a reminder that Kentucky Democrats often skew socially conservative, even in the Statehouse.

University of Kentucky political science professor Donald Gross said the brief could help Democrats who fear the political perception of being “anti-family values.”

“If you’re a pro-choice, pro-gay rights Democrat, that can be a very significant issue in the general election,” Gross said.

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.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Geoff Young says he is being unfairly slighted in Kentucky's primary election. The retired state engineer appeared Monday on KET'S Kentucky Tonight. Young is suing his opponent Attorney General Jack Conway and other powerful state democrats, claiming he is illegally being dismissed as a candidate before voters have a chance to make their choice. "I just strongly disagree with that idea," said Young. "It's not democratic. It resembles more like an organized crime operation than it does a political party."

Young was in court Monday before Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate. He says the judge plans to rule Wednesday on motions to dismiss his suit.

Young's running mate, Jonathan Masters, also appeared on 'Kentucky Tonight.' Afterward, Masters said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage could place the Commonwealth as one of the leading southern states on the issue. "I think by being a pro friendly (state), it changes the culture, it changes who we are," Masters said. "Instead of saying we're going to be discriminating and bigoted, we're going to embrace people. So, I think we would see more gay people here and gay establishments."

Kentucky's primary election will be held on May 19.

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