FRANKFORT — Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer filed his paperwork to run for governor Thursday morning, predicting he will win more than 50 percent of the vote in the May Republican primary.
After filing his papers in the Secretary of State's Office, Comer was joined by his wife T.J., running mate Chris McDaniel and about 100 supporters in the Capitol Rotunda.
Pausing during his news conference to call for a moment of silence for former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, who died Thursday morning, Comer touted the network of supporters he has cultivated over the years, noting that he raised more than $1 million in 90 days as a candidate.
"My friends, this campaign has energy and enthusiasm," Comer said. "Our organization is well-defined. Our supporters are school teachers, factory workers, construction workers and entrepreneurs. It's made up of all Kentuckians who just want to move Kentucky forward."
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Pledging "bold leadership" and promising that his top priority will be to create jobs for Kentucky, Comer said he will deliver a State of the Commonwealth address as governor a year from now that will "change this state forever in one legislative session."
After his remarks, Comer said he would deal with the legislature in a similar manner as former Democratic Gov. Paul Patton, making the case that Patton was able to pass meaningful legislation because "he worked the general assembly."
"You don't just file legislation midway through the session, like the tax reform bill last year, and expect it to pass," Comer said. "You have to pre-file it. You have to get consensus. You have to work to build coalitions. That's what we did with industrial hemp."
When asked how the entrance of former Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott would affect the race, Comer responded: "The more the better."
"We're going to get over 50 percent of the vote in the Republican primary," Comer said. "Whether that's two, three or six, we're going to get over 50 percent of the vote in the primary."
Comer and McDaniel, a state Senator from Latonia who is running for lieutenant governor on a slate with Comer, also declared Thursday that they are "friends of coal."
"Coal's not dead," Comer said. "We just need people in the executive branch and the attorney general's office that are going to fight and defend."
Mark Riddle, a senior adviser to Attorney General Jack Conway's gubernatorial campaign, said Comer is "clearly misinformed" about the Democratic attorney general's record on coal.
"Jack Conway is the only Democratic attorney general in the country to sue President Obama's EPA," Riddle said in a statement. "He's fought to keep coal jobs and for ratepayers in Eastern Kentucky regarding the Big Sandy Plant."
Riddle added that Conway has fought American Electric Power for raising consumer rates and fought to keep TVA facilities open in Western Kentucky.
"What has Jamie Comer done for coal?" Riddle said.
Comer said he would call for several debates with his Republican and would-be Democratic opponents, noting that he and Republican opponent Hal Heiner have already participated in two forums with a third scheduled for Friday morning.
Conway, who is so far the only credible Democrat running for governor, was invited to all three events and declined, Comer said.
Adding a new wrinkle to the time-tested tradition of challenging opponents to debates, Comer said he also would call for debates between the lieutenant governor candidates and the spouses. "So we're going to call for a lot of debates," he said. "It's more than just the gubernatorial candidate. This is a package deal."
When asked what she thought of the idea, T.J. Comer said: "I'm up for it."