Politics & Government

State agriculture department plans open house, says politics not on the menu

James Comer
will officially kick off his run for governor Tuesday in Tompkinsville.
James Comer will officially kick off his run for governor Tuesday in Tompkinsville.

FRANKFORT — Y'all come, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says about an open house at his department's Frankfort offices next week.

The event, an apparent novelty for Kentucky constitutional officers, "has nothing whatsoever to do with politics," his chief of staff, Holly Harris VonLuehtre, said Monday.

Comer is frequently mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for governor in 2015.

The open house will feature a tour of the department's offices and a lunch of hot dogs and chips, which Comer will pay for, VonLuehtre said.

No tax dollars will be used for the Oct. 15 open house, which will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., she said, adding that Comer hoped to make it an annual event.

VonLuehtre said it would be is the first time Comer had held an open house for his department and might be the first time a state constitutional officer in Kentucky has hosted one.

She laughed when asked about the acronym that results from the last three words of the official name of the event — "Kentucky Department of Agriculture Open House for Transparency, Efficiency and Accountability": TEA.

Could that suggest an affinity with a certain political party?

"Come on now. Give me a break," she said.

However, Lexington developer John T. Kemper III of Lexington, a leader in the United Kentucky Tea Party, said he was helping VonLuehtre organize and publicize the open house.

Kemper ran unsuccessfully in 2011 for state auditor on a GOP ticket with Comer. He had the strong backing of the Tea Party.

"Commissioner Comer just wants to educate people about the state agriculture department," Kemper said. "I think it's a good idea and am glad to help.

"Really, I never thought about 'Transparency, Efficiency and Accountability' spelling out 'tea.'"

The open house and its schedule are being promoted heavily on Jefferson Review, whose editor describes it as "a liberty-oriented online newsletter."

VonLuehtre said Comer had "no idea" how many people would show up for the open house.

She is recommending that anyone who plans to attend to call (502) 573-0450 "so we can know how many to expect."


Open house at the state Department of Agriculture

When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 15

Where: 111 Corporate Drive, Frankfort

RSVP: Call (502) 573-0450 so the staff knows how many people are coming.

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