Politics & Government

Likely Ky. governor candidate launches PAC to elect Republican state lawmakers

Hal Heiner
Hal Heiner

Likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner is working to make some allies in the Kentucky legislature.

Heiner, a former Louisville councilman and mayoral candidate, announced Wednesday that he's launching a Super PAC, New Direction Kentucky, that will focus on helping Republicans in their effort to take back the Kentucky House for the first time since 1921.

"The Kentucky House of Representatives has been controlled by a single party for almost a century," Heiner said in a statement. "And in that time, Kentucky has fallen far behind our competitor states. Our unemployment remains high, our per-capita income ranks near the bottom of the country, and our budget is a complete disaster."

"We have almost 100 years of evidence to demonstrate that House Democrats are more interested in taking care of themselves and protecting the status quo, at the expense of Kentucky's well-being," his statement said. "As we look to other states like Tennessee and Indiana that have experienced explosive economic growth, the common factor is that those states elected a Republican legislature that went on to pass pro-growth economic legislation with a focus on job attraction."

Heiner is expected to announce a run for governor soon. He told the Herald-Leader in early December that he was looking to enter the 2015 race early in the new year.

"I'm a firm believer in marathon campaigns where people get to know the actual candidates and don't have to rely on a 30-second TV spot produced by some group out of Washington, D.C., to decide who to vote for," Heiner told the Herald-Leader.

Heiner joins other state Republicans in saying 2014 is the year the GOP can finally win control of the House.

Tuesday's filing deadline brought the picture into focus somewhat, revealing that 45 of the House's 100 seats will be contested in the general election.

The steering committee for Heiner's group involves several well-known Republicans, including Madisonville attorney Todd P'Pool, banker Terry Forcht and Larry Cox, a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, another Republican considering a bid for governor in 2015, said he is "110 percent" in favor of Heiner's group as long as it "has the primary objective to support Republican House members."

"But if it becomes a vehicle by which to promote Hal Heiner for governor, then obviously there will be some legal issues there," Comer said. "We'll have to see how it spends its money. The roll-out today was all about him. I think the focus should be on House Republican candidates."

Comer said two members of the PAC's board contacted him Wednesday to tell him "their focus is to flip the House and that if I decided to run for governor, they are 110 percent in support of me."

Comer declined to identify the board members.