Ryan Quarles, a Republican state representative from Georgetown, will be the new commissioner of agriculture.
Quarles, who pulled away from Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson Spann in polling in recent weeks, beat her in commanding fashion statewide.
"I'm humbled and honored that the voters of Kentucky have given me the opportunity to serve as their next commissioner of agriculture," Quarles said shortly after the race was called in his favor. "I look forward to the coming days as we move forward and form a leadership team that will move Kentucky forward."
The race turned confrontational, with the Kentucky Republican party accusing Spann of campaign finance violations in using her farm radio show to promote her campaign. Spann, in turn, said Quarles thought a woman couldn't do the job of agriculture commissioner.
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Quarles, 32, also spent more money on radio and TV advertising: campaign records showed he spent nearly $280,000 to Spann's $32,254.
Quarles credited his win to an early effort to build consensus in the farming community statewide.
"Farmers do not like partisanship," he said. "We built a bipartisan coalition to build momentum, which led to success tonight."
The commissioner-elect said he would set up a transition team immediately to focus on four main areas: the continued success of Kentucky Proud, agriculture education, international trade for farmers and a pushback against EPA regulations that adversely affect Kentucky farmers.
"We want to connect the farm gate with the dinner plate," he said.
Kentucky's agriculture commissioner is responsible for expanding agricultural markets, rural economic development and promoting the Kentucky Proud program. The annual salary in 2014 was $117,329. The office's overall budget in 2014 was about $35 million.
Quarles will replace Jamie Comer, did not seek re-election as commissioner. Instead, he ran in the Republican primary for governor, losing narrowly to Matt Bevin.
Quarles, who said he has worked on the family farm his whole life, gave up his Georgetown law practice to run for commissioner. He holds numerous degrees: a bachelor's in political science, agricultural economics and public service and leadership from the University of Kentucky; a master's degree in agricultural economics. and a law degree from UK. He also has a master's in higher education from Harvard.