Comer pulls $250,000 in first 'spontaneous' fundraiser in campaign

09/10/2014 04:12 PM

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s campaign received about $250,000 in his first fundraiser as a Republican gubernatorial candidate, Comer told Pure Politics in a phone interview Wednesday.

Comer, who launched his campaign Tuesday in Tompkinsville, Ky., held a fundraiser at the Glasgow Country Club that day with about 200 donors present, he said.

The event “was just a spontaneous kind of thing” in which the campaign did not send formal invitations, and many of the attendees also watched Comer unveil his candidacy on the steps of the Monroe County Courthouse, he said.

Little of the $250,000 total came from “the CEO network that we have around the state,” with the lion’s share from donors in south central Kentucky, he said.

“If you ask the Mitch McConnells and Rand Pauls of the world about fundraising, they pull out their fundraising map of Kentucky,” Comer told Pure Politics. “Barren and Monroe counties don’t exist on that fundraising map. They just don’t.”

“So you have two counties that really don’t even make a dent on anyone’s radar screen when they run statewide, and we raised $250,000 there last night. … That’s more than Hal Heiner has raised in the entire six months he’s been in the campaign.”

Comer is alluding to Heiner’s latest campaign finance report, which shows the Louisville real estate developer has loaned his GOP gubernatorial campaign $4.2 million of the $4.4 million he’s raised as of June 30. But Heiner campaign spokesman Joe Burgan said Heiner has deemphasized his fundraising while promoting state House GOP candidates, who seek to overcome a 54-46 advantage and assume control of the chamber for the first time since 1921.

“Out of respect for the candidates attempting to raise money for their elections this fall, Hal has not held a single fundraising event, and will not until after the November elections,” Burgan said in a statement. “His focus remains on helping Republicans take the majority in the House, and traveling the state meeting with as many Kentuckians as possible to share his vision for creating jobs and economic growth in Kentucky.”

While Comer is happy with the quarter-million-dollar haul Tuesday, it’s far from his prediction in the Lexington Herald-Leader last month, when he told the newspaper he would “raise more money on the first day I file for governor than he’ll (Heiner) raise the entire campaign.”

Still, Comer said his campaign’s fundraising will prove a strong point in his gubernatorial bid. He and his running mate, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, will host another impromptu fundraiser late Wednesday in northern Kentucky, and formal events are planned over the next 60 days in Murray, Frankfort, Louisville and Lexington, Comer said. He hopes to have about 15 regional fundraisers by year’s end, he said.

“We’re not in any hurry to beat any reporting period or anything like that,” Comer said. “We know who our supporters are. We know there’s a lot of competition for fundraising dollars out there with the House Republican caucus and with the McConnell campaigns, so we don’t want to do anything that would hurt anybody in any competitive races, but we’re pretty confident that we have an infrastructure in place to be able to raise enough money.”

Comer “will come out strong” with “a very good number” in his first campaign finance report, which will cover the third fundraising quarter ending Sept. 30, he said. Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway set the fundraising bar in the gubernatorial election in his initial finance report . He drew $751,329 with two formal fundraisers between May 6, when he formed a slate with House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, and June 30, campaign finance reports show.

For Comer, though, Dec. 31 will be a key date to flex his fundraising muscle.

“Once the November election is over and once we’ve been in the race 60 days, every prominent Republican donor in this state will know this is the ticket that can win in November, this is the ticket we need to support, and from Nov. 4 to Christmas time, we’re going to really focus on trying to raise some good money for the May primary.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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