KET Legislative Coverage

A Candidate for Governor? Not Yet

by John Gregory | 04/15/14 12:53 PM

Although he increasingly sounds like a candidate for higher office, James Comer says he's in no hurry to announce his candidacy for governor of the commonwealth. The state agriculture commissioner appeared on this weekend's edition of One to One with Bill Goodman.

The Monroe County native has been in state politics since he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 2000. He became head of the Department of Agriculture in 2012. Within a week of taking that office, Comer requested an audit of the agency to investigate claims of wrongdoing by his predecessor and fellow Republican, Richie Farmer.

A Contender for Governor
In his two years on the job, Comer has traveled to each of Kentucky's 120 counties. Should he enter the 2015 governor's race, Comer is seen as a leading contender for the GOP nomination. Although one Republican, Louisville businessman Hal Heiner, has already entered the race, Comer says he sees other political priorities for this year.

"I think the most important thing we can do as Republicans in Kentucky in 2014 is to change the leadership in the state House," Comer says. He contends House Democrats have been reckless and insincere in their management of state government.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer talks with Bill Goodman on One to One.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer talks with Bill Goodman on One to One.

Comer describes himself as a 100 percent pro-life conservative, but believes Republicans should shift their focus from social to economic issues. He said a new generation of GOP politicians should work to make government more efficient and accountable, update the state's economic policies to be more business friendly, and ensure young people become better educated and prepared to enter the workforce.

Accomplishments as Ag Commissioner
In addition to pushing legislation to jump-start industrial hemp production in Kentucky, Comer has expanded on the popular Kentucky Proud program to promote goods produced or manufactured by farm families and family businesses in the state. He launched the Udderly Kentucky initiative last fall to help dairy farmers process and market their milk within the state. A new effort called Appalachia Proud will focus on revitalizing Eastern Kentucky communities. Comer says it's a misconception that farming can't be a successful part of the Appalachian economy.

"The problem with that part of the state is a lot of the leadership in that part of the state continues to look at the way the world was in the 1950s, and it's a very different world and a very different economy [today]," Comer explains. He says the region is ripe for new forms of farming like hydroponics and greenhouses that allow food to be produced year-round on small parcels of land.

Watch the full One to One interview.