James Comer first candidate with negative television spot, albeit briefly, in GOP primary

05/04/2015 02:48 PM

UPDATED: After complaining bitterly for weeks about negative spots against him by the 501(c )(4) group Citizens for a Sound Government, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer became the first candidate to air an attack ad in this year’s GOP gubernatorial primary, his campaign manager confirmed Friday.

The spot, which targeted former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner’s River Ridge Commerce Center development in southern Indiana, was easy to miss, though.

Edwin King, Comer’s campaign manager, said the ad mistakenly aired for the final two days of its scheduled flight in the Lexington and Bowling Green markets rather than the full cycle, and the campaign decided to put a positive ad on the airwaves on Thursday rather than reissue the anti-Heiner ad, which could reemerge as the campaign enters its final two weeks.

King blamed the mistake on the campaign’s ad vendor.

Pure Politics requested a copy of the ad late Friday through King, who did not return calls Monday.

“It was supposed to go up a little bit earlier, and it was actually supposed to be on a few days longer than it was and then just wasn’t, so we moved on to our next ad that’s on now,” King said in a phone interview with Pure Politics on Friday. “… The flight time should have been seven days, but again it was a screw up by our vendor.”

When asked about the tone of the ad blaming Heiner for attracting jobs from Kentucky to Indiana given Comer’s past statements about remaining positive in the primary, King said much of the spot was based on a website titled “What’s Hal Hiding?” that’s paid for by the Comer campaign.

“He wanted to run a positive campaign about ideas and achievement and then Hal Heiner’s super PAC began running negative ads against him, so he’s going to defend his record and show the hypocrisy of Hal Heiner,” King said Friday.

The campaign also seems to be pushing similar themes in a recent direct-mail piece, photos of which were obtained by Pure Politics.

“Hal Heiner’s pockets are lined with your tax dollars,” reads the front of the Comer mailer, which includes a black-and-white photo of Heiner superimposed over a photo of cash.

The mailer, seen below, attacks Heiner for helping move “hundreds of jobs from Kentucky to Indiana” and alleges that he “profited from a toll bridge deal that he backed” and “profited from $2.5 million in taxpayer earmarks.”

“This is a pack of lies. Jamie Comer is so desperate to distract voters from his embarrassing answer to the question of why he voted himself a $500,000 taxpayer pension that he’s willing to tell bold-faced lies to voters about Hal Heiner,” Heiner spokesman Doug Alexander said in a statement to Pure Politics.

“Voters are tired of career politicians like Jamie Comer focused on helping themselves rather than Kentucky families. Hal Heiner is the conservative Frankfort outsider that is running for Governor in order to put Kentucky families first.”

The Comer campaign’s claims are detailed on its anti-Heiner website, but a review of citations on the site shows no articles pertaining to votes cast by Heiner as a councilman from which he should have recused himself.

Instead, most of the website’s references date back to Heiner’s 2010 run for Louisville mayor in which he and current Mayor Greg Fischer supported building the East End bridge first in the Ohio River Bridges project because it was cheaper than the downtown crossing.

Capstone Realty, the firm chaired by Heiner, bought its first parcels of land in the Indiana development in 2006, a year after the second installment of $2.5 million in earmarks for the park were used to build roads and drainage points. Capstone Realty decided to move forward with the development in August 2005, according to a 2006 report by Business First of Louisville.

Heiner addressed the jobs question in a profile published by The Lexington Herald-Leader, saying the Indiana center’s developers heard complaints about Frankfort from one of the two businesses that moved there. Rather than moving elsewhere in the country, Heiner said in the profile that he’s glad the companies chose to stay in the region.

“Those jobs could’ve gone anywhere,” Heiner said in the Herald-Leader piece. “That company was an overseas company. They could’ve gone anywhere in the U.S. And all of the Kentuckians that worked there kept their jobs. They still brought their paychecks back to Kentucky because it’s a metropolitan economy. So no, I’m proud of that effort. But they made it very clear on day one, they would not stay in Kentucky.”


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.