Comer lays out strategies and platform and possible running mate in likely governors race

08/01/2014 07:22 PM

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says he likely will announce from the stage at the Fancy Farm picnic on Saturday that he will run for governor next year. And ahead of the decision, Comer talked about a possible running mate and laid out his policy priorities which include tax reform and education reforms.

“The support for me to run for governor is overwhelming. People are begging me to run. They’re saying we believe in you. We believe in your vision of Kentucky. We believe in your marketability with the voters, so I can tell you things are certainly pointing in that direction,” Comer said.

Before raising or spending money in the governor’s race, a candidate must file as a slate with a lieutenant governor candidate. But Comer said that announcement will wait for an official campaign roll-out, which will come in September in Tompkinsville.

Sen. Chris McDaniel has been mentioned as a possible running mate with Comer. McDaniel is from Taylor Mill in Northern Kentucky, where Republican registration is high in the region, but traditionally turnout is low in primaries and in odd-year election cycles, which is when the governors race is held.

“He’s a great guy. Obviously if I choose to run for governor we’ll make an announcement of who the running mate will be. There’s been a lot of speculation…we’ve vetted a lot of people. Certainly, Chris McDaniel is the kind of person I think people could vote for for governor – as are others,” Comer said.

“This is a ticket that will make bold decisions. We’re not going to be concerned about polls. We don’t need a governor that’s concerned about polls. We need a leader that will make tough decisions to move Kentucky forward,” he said.

Louisville businessman Hal Heiner declared his candidacy for the GOP nomination for governor with running mate K.C. Crosbie in March. Since entering the race, Heiner has given his campaign $4.2 million, but Comer says he can break through the funding onslaught with non-traditional media, such as social media sites.

And Comer says how a candidate rations money should be a signal to voters.

“How have you managed your money. That should give an indication of how you will manage the taxpayers money,” Comer said. “If you’ve been in the race for four months, and you’ve spent $700,000 and haven’t moved an inch in the polls, you know, can you manage a $10 billion general fund budget?”

One of the main priorities for Comer is creating jobs in Kentucky and part of the path to do that, he said, is through a pointed curriculum designed to help kids when they graduate.

“What we need is an area technology center in every school district in the state that their curriculum is based on what the industries are in that particular region and the industries in Northern Kentucky are different than the industries in Southern Kentucky and the industries in Western Kentucky are different than the industries in Eastern Kentucky,” Comer said.

Comer said too many students in Kentucky are getting degrees that are “worthless and in no demand for the workforce.” He said the solution is for more students to get certificates for jobs that are already in demand.

Another priority for Comer is to reform the state’s tax code — something governors have said needs to be dealt with for decades.

Gov. Steve Beshear introduced a plan in the 2014 legislative session that would create an additional $210 million in tax revenue by expanding the 6 percent sales tax to some services, increasing the tax rate on cigarettes to $1 per-pack, and reducing a retirement income tax exclusion on top-earning pensioners.

“The governor did not have a good proposal,” Comer said. “The number one priority for Governor Beshear and Lt. Gov. Abramson was to create more revenue to pay for big government. The number one priority for comprehensive tax reform in Kentucky should be to make Kentucky the most competitive state in the United States to own a business,” Comer said.

But, Comer said he couldn’t start breaking out tax reform numbers, because the state first needs comprehensive spending reforms. One way Comer will cut spending is to cut back on state workers. The state workforce has shrunk to its smallest level in four decades during the recession mostly through attrition, as Beshear mentioned in his 2014 state budget address. But Comer said more should be done.

“If your job is to sit in an air conditioned office all day long and do nothing then your job would be in trouble in a Comer administration,” Comer said. “If you’re a hard working social worker if you’re a front line classroom teacher we’re going to bring you reinforcements, because we need more social workers we need more classroom teachers.”


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