Agriculture Commissioner James Comer beside his wife, T.J., as he announces his bid for governor.
Credit Alix Mattingly/WFPL News
FANCY FARM—Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer officially announced his bid for governor Saturday at the 134th annual Fancy Farm political picnic. He’s the third candidate to launch an gubernatorial bid in the 2015 race.
"It’s been my dream come true to be your commissioner of agriculture," Comer said before a packed audience at the St. Jerome Church picnic grounds. "And I view the people of Western Kentucky as our family. So [my wife] 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."
The 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.
Thus far, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway is the lone Democratic candidate in the race.
In his Fancy Farm speech, Conway neglected the looming specter of a Comer candidacy—nor did he address Heiner—in lieu of trumpeting his accomplishments as attorney general; namely his office’s successes in combating online child pornography and cracking down on prescription pain pill abuse, he said.
Comer said he will officially file his paperwork Sept. 9 at an inaugural campaign event in Tompkinsville, Ky. According to Kentucky law, gubernatorial candidates must include a lieutenant governor in their ticket when they file their candidacy.
Speculation has centered on Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican state senator from Taylor Mill who owns a construction business. Elected in 2012, McDaniel is also chairman state Senate’s Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance, and Public Protection.
"You know, people have a lot of rumors out there," McDaniel said, adding that he’s been in talks with Comer about joining the ticket. "But, you know, right now I’m focused on doing my job in the Senate, I obviously own a business back home, and we’ve got a lot of races ahead of us this fall, so we’ll look forward to those."
Comer took aim at Heiner in his Fancy Farm speech, saying that the next governor won’t be "a millionaire from Louisville."
Comer denied that the comment suggests that his campaign is attempting to employ an urban-rural schism between himself and Heiner and Conway, both of whom live in Louisville."
"I’ve got a lot of support in Louisville," Comer said.
Heiner was not permitted to speak at this year’s event. Fancy Farm political director Mark Wilson said the event only allows sitting elected officials to speak. But just last year, GOP Senate candidate Matt Bevin, a conservative bell manufacturer who lost a primary race against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell earlier this year, spoke at 2013’s picnic.
Bevin was also making rounds at Saturday’s picnic, and said he’s considering a running for governor, too.
"I’m considering it and I’m not considering it," Bevin said.