Republican James Comer plowed his way past Democrat Robert "Bob" Farmer in Tuesday's general election to become Kentucky's next commissioner of agriculture.
He was the lone Republican winner and the top overall vote-getter among all the statewide races.
Comer, a state representative from Tompkinsville in Monroe County, surged into the lead in early returns and never relinquished it.
Farmer called Comer about 8 p.m. to concede.
"I'm very blessed and very fortunate, I'm happy for my family and all of those who invested their time and money in our campaign," Comer said in a telephone interview. "It all came together in a great way tonight."
Comer obviously benefitted from ticket splitting in many counties, including Fayette, drawing a large percentage of the vote in areas where Democrats were overwhelming Republicans in other races.
"We had a strong farm background that resonated with the voters. But I also had a great political organization behind me that consisted of a lot of Republicans and Democrats," Comer said. "We had overwhelming support among people in the agriculture community, and ironically a lot of people in the agriculture community are registered Democrats. So I was able to get a lot of automatic ticket-switching right there."
Comer said he also enjoyed strong support among Tea Party members.
The race for agriculture commissioner largely came down to issues of experience and qualifications.
Comer based his campaign primarily on his extensive experience as a cattle farmer, which he said made him the candidate best qualified to lead the state Department of Agriculture and look after the needs of Kentucky farmers.
Farmer, who is from Louisville, is a marketing executive and for several years has been a spokesman for Farmers' Almanac. But he has not been a farmer.
Outgoing agriculture commissioner Richie Farmer had no direct agricultural experience either when he was first elected to the post in 2003. But his wide popularity as a former University of Kentucky basketball player and member of UK's 1991-1992 "Unforgettables" team more than made up for that.
Bob Farmer, however, had no such edge.
Comer strongly attacked Farmer's lack of experience on the land, at one point dismissing his opponent as "just a joke" and a "weak link."
Farmer countered that the job today demanded more in the way of marketing skill than actual farming knowledge.
Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397 Ext. 3255.