Comer has Democratic support in hometown, but can that spread across the state?

09/11/2014 04:20 PM

Now that Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has made his bid for governor official, his ticket will begin traveling the state gathering support for their campaign. Comer says in order to win, they will need the support of members of all parties, but can he achieve that?

Soon after Comer made his 2015 decision known, he soon began to discuss the kind of support that they will need to win the election and that they’re looking to the past as an indicator of the support needed, which was a message he again repeated Tuesday at his official campaign kickoff event.

“This is going to be a campaign that will unite all Kentuckians and there will be no doubt that we’ll have a campaign that will appeal to conservative Democrats and Independents,” Comer said Tuesday. “If you look at the last elections for governor, there have been ten elections in my lifetime, the Democrats have won nine out of ten races. What we have to do as Republicans is nominate a slate that can appeal to conservative Democrats and Independents without giving up our ideologies and we will do that.”

And Comer is doing just that in his hometown of Tompkinsville, where Democrats in the area attended the official kickoff event wearing bright colored shirts that read “Democrats for Comer.”

Loretta Pearl Lyons, one of the Democrats at the event, told Pure Politics she believes Comer has what it takes to be governor and that even as a member of the other political party she would rather have Comer leading the state than Attorney General Jack Conway, the only Democrat who has entered the race.

“And I will tell Mr. Conway that too,” Lyons said. “I don’t know that much about him, I know he served the state and hopefully he has done a good job. But I think Comer is the right man for governor.”

When asked what she believes Comer could do to turn the state around if he is elected governor, Lyons said she thinks the current agriculture commissioner will take the same approach he has taken during his time in the statewide office.

“By cutting spending, by being good to all the people and having all their interests at heart and not just a select few,” Lyons said.

But Lyons wasn’t the only person with one of the neon “Democrats for Comer” shirts on and she told Pure Politics that there were more Democrats in the audience who just did not know about the shirts.

The area’s state Representative Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, said it is not uncommon for Democrats to support Comer in his elections pointing to the races Comer has won for state Representative and then agriculture commissioner.

“He never got less than 85 percent of the vote, in one of those races he got like 92 or 93 percent of the vote,” Rowland told Pure Politics. “We don’t have a lot of Democrats registered in Monroe County but it takes him getting a good majority of those to get that kind of turnout.”

But as Rowland pointed out, there are not many registered Democrats in the area and some are pretty conservative members of the party. But Rowland said that he believes that kind of bipartisan support can spread across the state and added that it already has in a previous election.

“In the 2011 Agriculture Commissioners race he got like 750,000 votes and that took a large number of Democrats who are interested in him and what they knew that he would do for agriculture and now he has proven that he has done those things and I think they will be on board for him for this gubernatorial race too,” Rowland said.

In a phone interview with Pure Politics Thursday, State Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, echoed similar sentiments saying that Comer has already appealed to Democrats across the state during his race for agriculture commissioner.

As for whether or not that appeal will carry over in the gubernatorial race, Webb said Comer is a formidable candidate and because many voters in the state are often interested in the individual as well as the politics in these races, Comer could win over Democrats in many areas of the state. Comer’s work on agriculture issues and his voting history during his time in the General Assembly are things pointed to for that appeal.

“In rural parts of the state and even some urban, when you look at fresh food issues and fiscal concerns and others, he has appeal,” Webb said about Comer.

Webb said she believes Conway won’t be the only Democrat to jump into the race. But if the race does come down to being between Comer and Conway, Webb said both will have different sets of issues that voters gravitate to and both of them are good family men who have done well in their elected positions.

But the eastern Kentucky state Senator said Comer could have a little more pull in rural areas of the state like hers because of the conservative nature of the Democrats in the area and some of the issues the agriculture commissioner has worked on.


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