Politics

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said he’s buckling down in western and southern Kentucky ahead of the May 19 Republican primary election for governor.

Last week, the Bluegrass Poll showed that Comer trails Louisville businessman Hal Heiner by about 8 points statewide among likely Republican voters—but he has a commanding 16-point lead over Matt Bevin in western Kentucky.

“As commissioner of Agriculture, I’ve worked very closely with a lot of entrepreneurs and family farmers in Western Kentucky so they know me, they know I can provide the badly needed leadership we need in this state,” Comer said in a recent interview with Kentucky Public Radio.

The poll said Heiner leads the pack in the state’s east, north-central and Louisville regions but trails by 23 points in the west.

“We’re going to keep focusing on getting as many votes as we can in Louisville, but I’m focused on really running the score up in this part of the state,” Comer said.

In a January poll,Comer held a commanding lead. But Heiner began a media blitz in early 2o15 and, according to the Courier-Journal, has already spent $1 million on television ads for his campaign.

According to the poll, Comer would be narrowly defeated by Attorney General Jack Conway in the November election, faring slightly better than Heiner in a head-to-head match-up with the leading Democratic nominee for governor.

As agriculture commissioner, Comer is the only Republican holding a statewide office. He and former Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott are the only GOP nominees who have been elected to positions in state government. Heiner is a former Louisville Metro Council member; he lost the 2010 Louisville mayoral election to Democrat Greg Fischer.

Comer said if he’s nominated, he would defeat Conway because he got more votes than the attorney general in the 2011 elections for their respective offices.

“I can get more votes than Jack Conway,” Comer said. “That’s very important to nominate someone that can get the most votes if we want to nominate and elect a Republican governor.”

The Bluegrass Poll predicts that in a head-to-head match-up, Comer would defeat Conway in the state’s western and eastern regions, with Conway taking the Louisville and north-central regions.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.