GOP gubernatorial candidates talk campaign staff changes as they ramp up efforts

11/14/2014 03:59 PM

Kentucky’s Republican gubernatorial candidates are keeping to their word, ramping up their campaigns with this year’s midterm elections decided.

Louisville real estate developer Hal Heiner recently hired Kyle Robertson, who managed Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s reelection campaign this year and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s in 2012, as a senior advisor and Doug Alexander, former press secretary to Kentucky Gov. Wallace Wilkinson, as communications director.

Heiner told Pure Politics in an interview Friday that Robertson will “have the responsibility for the decisions on the direction of the campaign and the ground organization,” with Joe Burgan remaining in his role as campaign manager.

Heiner said he doesn’t expect any friction between the two key decision makers moving forward (3:22 in the video below).

“We’ve got a great team all focused on the same vision, and Kyle’s a great addition, and I’m looking forward to January,” he said after speaking to the Kentucky Hospital Association’s conference in Louisville.

Kentucky’s gubernatorial race next year is one of a handful of elections nationwide, so it’s not unusual to see former campaign staffers who worked this year’s elections jump into other contests. But Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, the other GOP gubernatorial candidate, said he doesn’t expect to hire many top-level staffers to his gubernatorial team.

Comer said he expects to announce new economic and education policy advisors in the coming weeks, though he’s been meeting with them “for months and months and months to help develop a platform.”

“We have a wealth of good, credible policy advisors on the national level,” he said (2:30 in the video below). “Many of them are household names. Obviously I spend a lot of time with Joe Craft and Kelly Knight, and you know they run in circles with some of the biggest players in the Republican Party of America, so we have some good advisors, but at the end of the day, I travel the state and I talk to people in small towns and big cities about problems facing them and ways the next governor can help improve their lives.”

He also threw a jab at Heiner’s hires, saying a “campaign staff shakeup” is a troubling sign for his primary opponent.

“We’re satisfied with what we have,” he told Pure Politics before addressing the KHA conference. “Our campaign’s comprised of a lot of volunteers all across the state. We’re going to demonstrate that you can do more with less. I’ve demonstrated that as commissioner of agriculture. We’re going to demonstrate that with the campaign.”

Campaign staffs aside, the two Republicans have increased their efforts to not only win the GOP nomination, but also the Governor’s Mansion.

Heiner said his campaign has lined up events nearly every day between early December and Christmas as he ramps up his fundraising efforts, an area he ceded to House Republican candidates in their quest to wrest control of the chamber from Democrats.

“I think Kentuckians in general will be paying attention to the governor’s race and the future of the commonwealth, and we have some very serious problems in Kentucky right now, especially economic,” he said. “And after we make that turn in January, I’m hoping we’ll have forums, I hope we have 60 forums just in county after county across the state where the candidates are there and talking about the policy, how Kentucky can become first in areas that we’re really struggling today.

“… I really look forward to those what I’m hoping will be policy-based forums across the state where Kentuckians can say, ‘That’s the vision, that’s where we need to go, and that’s the person that can get us there.’”

Comer said his campaign is building strong organizations in all 120 counties with the focus shifting to 2015. He has noticed an uptick in media attention as well as enthusiasm from supporters throughout Kentucky.

“We’re all over the state, and I don’t see any weak links in the organization,” Comer said. “People are ready for change. They’re excited after the results of Tuesday’s elections, so we’re going to keep traveling all over this state.”

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 or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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