At GOP dinnner, Comer calls Gov. Beshear complacent, mediocre; Comer and Guthrie trade praise

02/03/2013 03:49 PM

Kentucky is adrift with a governor who embodies “complacency” and “mediocrity,” Agriculture Commissioner James Comer told a capacity crowd of Republicans in Spencer County on Friday.

Speaking at the first Republican Lincoln Day Dinner of the year at the Spencer Christian Church, Comer said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson have done little to lay the groundwork for any substantial reforms in the 2013 legislative session.

“When you think about them, you think about complacency, mediocrity — no vision, no agenda,” Comer told the 280 Republicans on Friday night. “… I like Steve Beshear. He’s a good guy. He’s a good man. But I can’t tell you what his legislative agenda is this session.”

The speaking agenda at the dinner boasted some of the biggest names in Kentucky GOP politics — U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Congressmen Brett Guthrie and Thomas Massie. Those speakers largely talked about conditions in Washington. Comer, speaking last on the agenda, was the only one to focus his remarks on problems Kentucky faces.

And as part of that, he questioned the goals of the Beshear administration:

Comer went on to make a pitch for his main objective in 2013: for the General Assembly to pass a bill setting up a regulatory framework for an industrial hemp industry in Kentucky in the event the federal government legalizes the crop.

Comer also is among the Republicans most frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in 2015 when Beshear’s second and final term expires.

Another potential contender is Guthrie. While he has said he’s not interested at the moment, Guthrie remains popular among Republicans statewide and is being quietly promoted as a top-shelf candidate in 2015 by key supporters and consultants, such as Scott Jennings.

Still, Comer was effusive with his praise of Guthrie, with whom Comer served in the legislature while Guthrie was a state senator and Comer was in the House.

Earlier in the evening, Guthrie was nearly as complimentary of Comer and pledged to work with him.

Guthrie and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville are the only two members of Kentucky’s delegation to not take a position on the legalization of hemp. Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers opposes it largely because of concerns law enforcement agencies have with the ability to distinguish between hemp and marijuana plants. The others, most recently McConnell, have endorsed the legalization of the hemp industry.

Guthrie told Pure Politics on Friday night that he wants to wait to take a position until the completion of a University of Kentucky study about the potential economic effects of the industry. The Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission, which Comer leads, called for the study, which is expected to be finished this summer.

“If it turns out it is good for our farmers, we’ll figure out a way to make it work. Then we would have to sit down with law enforcement,” Guthrie said.

(Watch Pure Politics Monday night for more highlights from the first Republican Lincoln Day Dinner of the year.)


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