Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is throwing his support behind a House bill that would extend domestic violence protection to dating relationships.
"I thought this was important to let people know not every Republican is against this," Comer said Thursday in an interview. "I feel strongly in favor of it, and I'm afraid other Republicans may not embrace it."
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary committee unanimously passed House Bill 8, with the backing of judges, police and prosecutors who testified that existing Kentucky law doesn't go far enough. Currently, people may seek protective court orders prohibiting contact with their alleged abusers only if they are related, were married or living together, or had children.
Similar legislation has died in the Republican-led Senate in previous years. Asked Wednesday about the bill, Senate President Robert L. Stivers, R-Manchester, said he doesn't see the need for extending protective orders because people can seek arrest if they've been assaulted.
Comer, a probable Republican candidate for governor in 2015, said that as the only Republican statewide elected officer, he wanted to make it clear he disagrees.
"I think it's something we need to do to protect women; it sounds like there's a question whether women in a dating relationship or situation are protected under current law. If there's any question under the current law, we need to fix it," Comer said.
"People need to realize all Republicans don't think alike, even though it sounds like it because we always nominate the same old boring Republican men that talk the same old Republican talking points. I think it's very important and it's OK if I'm the only Republican supporting the bill."
Recently, Comer has made a point of commenting on a variety of issues that aren't directly farm-related, including teachers' raises, and he said Thursday he plans to further broaden his message.
"We're going to talk about every major issue affecting the average Kentuckian, and this is one of them," Comer said.
However, he is not oblivious to potential political ramifications.
"It's a fact that Republicans haven't been running very well with women over the last several elections," Comer said. "I talk with a lot of my female advisers around the state, and some of them are very, very conservative women, and they are all 100 percent in support of this legislation."
Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.