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Comer wins Kentucky ag commissioner race

Comer wins Kentucky ag commissioner race

by AP


Posted on November 8, 2011 at 11:58 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Republican James Comer will take his experience from years spent on his southern Kentucky beef cattle farm to Frankfort as the state's next agriculture commissioner.

Comer defeated Democrat Bob Farmer, a comedian with no farming experience, on Tuesday in a campaign that highlighted Comer's familiarity with Kentucky farming issues. With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Comer had 385,885, or 63 percent of the vote, to Farmer's 227,594, or 37 percent.

"I think experience, especially in agriculture, was the big issue," Comer said Tuesday night. "I just feel blessed. We're very happy."

Comer also benefited from his experience as a veteran campaigner in his landslide win for the post that controls a $30 million budget and has about 260 employees.

A state legislator since 2001, Comer dumped about $500,000 in campaign funds into television advertising in the final two weeks to fight what he called Farmer's "million-dollar name."

One of Comer's ads featured a Farmer stand-up comedy routine that poked fun at eastern Kentucky residents. Farmer joked that the region "is a place where cars are on blocks and houses are on wheels."

The ad said Farmer "insults Kentuckians" and that Comer is a "real farmer."

Farmer's campaign said the video was a heavily edited recording from 10 years ago, and pointed out that Farmer's wife is from eastern Kentucky.

But Tuesday night, Comer said he didn't feel that Farmer's jokes had much of an impact on the campaign.

Farmer ran TV ads concentrated in Louisville and Lexington, but he declined to be critical of his opponent, opting for biographical TV spots that highlighted his marketing experience. He told viewers the race was "not about who's the best farmer, but who's the best for the farmers."

Despite Farmer's ads, he was soundly defeated by Comer in his home base of Jefferson County.

Comer, 39, said he received a lot of support from Democrats who were attracted to his experience as a beef cattle farmer and state legislator.

Comer had charged that Farmer won the Democratic primary race in May because voters confused him with current ag commissioner Richie Farmer, a popular former University of Kentucky basketball player. Farmer countered that an association with Richie Farmer could cut both ways, due to ethics allegations the current ag chief has been recently battling.