Comer and Heiner preview potential 2015 GOP primary while talking issues with chamber

07/22/2014 04:14 PM

Business leaders in the state got a taste of what they can expect out of the Republicans in the 2015 governors race when Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner shared a stage to talk issues Tuesday.

At the annual Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Business Summit, Comer and Heiner answered questions from a panel about what policies they support. The two were joined by State Auditor Adam Edelen, who decided not to run for governor last month. The only Democrat who has announced his intentions to run, Attorney General Jack Conway, did not attend the panel event.

As for the Republicans in the race, Heiner is still the only member of the GOP to announce his decision to run. Comer again hinted that he would be announcing his intentions at the annual Fancy Farm picnic the first weekend in August.

But even before the primary field has been officially set, each of the men has received their own criticisms as a candidate. For Heiner, it is the fact that he gave more than $4 million to his own campaign. And Comer is being characterized by others as a Frankfort insider because of his time spent in the capital as a state Representative and now a term in another government office.

Both were asked to respond to these criticisms by the moderators. Heiner said he put that sum of money into his own campaign because he knows what the state needs and Kentucky’s future is the right place to invest.

Comer responded to the idea that he is a Frankfort insider by taking a jab at Heiner saying if he had won his 2010 run for Louisville mayor then Comer and Heiner would have “been in public service the same amount of time.”

In his opening remarks about what he would like to see for the future of Kentucky, Heiner said that while he has traveled the state over the last four months and visited with people in half of Kentucky’s 60 counties, he has heard one main concern out of Kentuckians: jobs.

“Where are the jobs for me? Where is the future for my children, that are moving away, often out of state,” Heiner said. “Will I even stay in Kentucky as I become an empty-nester? Where are the jobs in Kentucky?”

As for how Kentucky should get those jobs, both men also talked a lot about policies they would like to see put in place that they believe could move the state forward. Some of those mentioned by both Comer and Heiner included tax reform, education reform and right to work.

Comer began to lay out what sounded like a platform for a run for governor when he talked about the need for these things, saying that right to work is something that needs to be done and could be done within the first few days of someone talking office.

“Right to work is the first thing that we can do in a new administration within the first five days that does not cost one penny of taxpayer dollars to pass,” Comer said. “It sends a signal when we focus on education reform and all the things that the business community seeks, this state is going to be different overnight. We can change Kentucky with one legislative session.”

When discussing education, the two Republicans agreed that they did not agree with the one size fits all approach of the common core standards and said they would rather see Kentucky develop its own method of testing student achievement.

When it came to the new Kids Count report showing the state is still scoring low rankings in the areas of education and child wellness, Comer told the group of business members the state should be focusing on ways to make sure that students are prepared for the college and careers.

“What has happened with the education system today is we have bureaucrats in Washington and bureaucrats in Frankfort telling our classroom teachers what the curriculum needs to be,” Comer said. “There needs to be more input from the business community because these bureaucrats don’t know what types of skills that these job creators need in their business.”

For more highlights of the remarks from both Comer and Heiner as well as State Auditor Adam Edelen, tune into Pure Politics at 7 and 11:30 pm ET


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