Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer’s pledge that the next governor won’t be a “millionaire from Louisville” is drawing the ire of a top local Republican.
Comer, the state’s agriculture commissioner, made the comments earlier this month at Fancy Farm while announcing his intention to enter the 2015 governor’s race.
In response, former Jefferson County GOP Chair Jack Richardson wrote this week in The Courier-Journal that Comer, who is from Tompkinsville, was attempting to exploit Kentucky’s urban-rural divide.
From The C-J:
A political strategy that pits the rest of the state against Louisville might have worked in years past. Kentucky is faced with many challenges and needs and deserves more than that now — things are too serious for more politics as usual.
Telling Louisville, Kentucky’s economic engine, that you need not apply is the mark of a not-ready-for-prime-time novice and a sad beginning. Remember, Kentucky’s motto is “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
While speaking at a forum in downtown Louisville, Republican House Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown said the comments were obviously directed at declared gubernatorial contenders Hal Heiner and Jack Conway, both of Louisville, and not a knock against the city.
“What Commissioner Comer was referring to was the fact that his opponent, Mr. Heiner is from Louisville, Jack Conway is from Louisville, and I think Jamie Comer was saying ‘I’m going to win this race and I’m telling you the next governor will not be from Louisville,'” said Hoover. “That’s the point he was trying to make and I know it was not in anyway an anti-Louisville statement.”
So why does this matter? The approximate 177,500 registered Republicans in Jefferson County. That is 100,000 more GOP voters than in the second highest, Fayette County.
“If you don’t do well in Louisville, you’re not going to win the Republican nomination,” said current Louisville GOP Chairman Nathan Haney. “You can win all over the state, but ultimately you have to do well in Louisville, your margins cannot be bad. So I don’t know that it plays well at all to try to do the urban versus rural.”
Haney said he doesn’t think Comer was taking a swipe at the city, but as a Johnson County native he is aware there is a dislike of Louisville in the state.
“Certainly out in the state in the governor’s race there is some anti-Louisville sentiment out there and anti-urban area sentiment, but I don’t think it plays well in the primary at all.”
This wouldn’t be the first time an urban-rural divide came up in an election involving Comer.
When running for agriculture commissioner in 2011, Comer’s campaign pounced on his Democratic opponent for making jokes at the expense of Eastern Kentucky residents.
Republicans Matt Bevin and Cathy Bailey, who are also both from Louisville, are rumored candidates for governor as well.