Comer Ruffling GOP Feathers As Potential Gubernatorial Candidate

Nov 30, 2013

James Comer has been accused of creating divisions within the state GOP with a speech he delivered last week to a Somerset business group.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer
Credit photo provided

Republican state Sen. Chris Girdler charged in a guest editorial in the Commonwealth Journal, Somerset's daily newspaper, that Comer had made "petty and paranoid comments" to the local Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to jump start a gubernatorial bid.

Girdler said in his letter that Comer "ignored President Reagan's 11th commandment `Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican,' and blistered some of the leaders of our party.

"It especially wasn't appropriate when the divisive statements were aimed at not just fellow Republicans, not just elected officials, but at Pulaski County's own."

Comer said he was "shocked, disappointed and confused" by Girdler's response.

"I think Girdler's manifesto broke that 11th commandment," Comer said. "You know we need young professional people, like Girdler, in our party. But it's disturbing when they start behaving badly and acting like old back-stabbing politicians."

Comer, who talked largely about cleaning up the Department of Agriculture after fellow Republican Richie Farmer left office, also used the speech to call for an end to the days when party bosses selected candidates.

"At the conclusion of the speech, about 250 people gave me a standing ovation - including Girdler," Comer said. "Afterward, I had local politicians, state lawmakers, farmers and citizens congratulate me. I felt pretty good about the response we got from Pulaski County. This is just bizarre."

When a chamber member asked Comer about running for governor, Comer said he would make an announcement on his own timetable and that he "wouldn't be controlled by anyone."

"I thought the speech was very positive and basically focused on what we've done in our first two years here," Comer told the Commonwealth Journal. "I feel like we have a new vision for Kentucky and especially eastern Kentucky. We're trying very hard to replace jobs we've lost due to the war on coal."