Politics & Government

Comer and Bob Farmer will face off for agriculture commissioner

James Comer
says he has cultivated a wide base of support in preparing his bid for governor.
James Comer says he has cultivated a wide base of support in preparing his bid for governor.

A Republican lawmaker will face off against a Democrat who's the chief spokesman for the Farmer's Almanac this fall in the race for Kentucky's agriculture commissioner.

State Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville and Louisville marketing executive Bob Farmer beat back their opponents in their respective primaries Tuesday night.

Comer defeated Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Farmer won about 30 percent of the vote in his race, holding off four opponents: former Montgomery County Judge-Executive B.D. Wilson; Department of Agriculture employee Stewart Gritton; John Lackey, a Richmond lawyer and farmer; and David Lynn Williams, a former Glasgow construction industry worker.

Richie Farmer, who has been commissioner of agriculture since 2003, cannot seek a third term. He joined a ticket as lieutenant governor candidate with gubernatorial hopeful Senate President David Williams in the Republican primary.

Money had a mixed influence in the two races. Comer outspent Rothenburger 6-to-1. Bob Farmer said he spent only about $22,000 compared to $144,000 raised by Wilson, according to campaign finance reports.

"I knew from the get-go that in a five-way race, it wouldn't be about money," Bob Farmer said Tuesday night. "What I've talked about was the value of marketing expertise. That's all I've ever done, and that's what I did in this race."

Farmer, who is also a member of the International Society of Storytellers, said he worried his name might hurt his chances in a Democratic primary.

On campaign stops, Farmer has said the state needs to do a better job attracting new businesses in the biofuels industry. He also favors using incentives to lure more agricultural processors.

Comer, a cattle farmer who was first elected to the state House in 2000, said Tuesday night that he will work to improve the state's rural economies with farm products.

"I want to work to expand agricultural markets for Kentucky," Comer said Tuesday night. "People realize how important agriculture is and that we can take it to the next level with the right leadership — an active, informed and accessible commissioner."

Comer said he would put together bipartisan support for his campaign in the fall.

"We are going to have the most amazing group of Democrats and Republicans who care about state agriculture," he said. "We're going to see this momentum continue into the fall."

Although the number of farms in Kentucky has dropped over the past 10 years, farm sales in the state are expected to top $4.7 billion this year.

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