WKU Alum announces 2015 governor candidacy

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer (R) announces his candidacy for state governor in Tompkinsville on Tuesday, Sept. 9. Stephanie Jessie/HERALD

Stephanie Jessie

Homemade signs from the elementary school line the main road into the small town of Tompkinsville.

“Welcome Home Comer”


“Comer Country!”

Parking lots are full three blocks away from town square, and the local businesses are closed until noon.

The town’s own Boo Radley is in a suit, the first time most residents have seen him dressed so well.

Music blasts through the speakers, singing words of small-town life and American pride. Both things the day isn’t lacking.

In a town of 2,400 people, everyone who could afford a morning break, plus a number of out-of-towners, gathered around in their baby blue “#TeamComer” shirts to hear the official announcement they have been waiting for: James Comer is running for governor of the state of Kentucky in 2015.

“Here in Monroe County, there are a couple things we do really big, and we do them the right way,” Jeff Hoover, Kentucky house minority floor leader, said at the official announcement last Tuesday. “One is BBQ and the other one? We win elections!”

Comer, known as Jamie to the locals, was raised in Tompkinsville. His parents ran the local dentist office when he was a kid. He and his wife, TJ, were baptized at the First Baptist Church on the square. He spent his afternoons at the local burger joint, Dovies, where he invites everyone to learn the difference in “squeezed and unsqueezed” burgers.

Comer left the city to go to WKU in 1990, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. After college, Comer served as director of South Central Bank for 12 years. Other job titles on his resume include president of the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce and founder and owner of James Comer Jr. Farms, a 950-acre farm  that specializes in beef cattle, timber and hay.

In 2000, at the age of 27, Comer was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he served until he became the commissioner of agriculture in 2012 after winning the votes in 111 of the 120 Kentucky counties. 

Comer chose Sen. Chris McDaniel as his running mate. McDaniel, 37, is a NKU grad and an Army veteran, earning numerous awards and the rank of captain during his time in the military.

The two met in 2011 during Comer’s campaign for commissioner. 

For Comer, McDaniel’s age came into play when choosing the potential lieutenant governor of Kentucky, stating his wishes to encourage younger groups.

“I sought out young, professional leaders,” Comer said of McDaniel. “That’s a big thing of mine: to inspire the next generation of leaders in Kentucky.”

That’s a goal state Rep. Bart Rowland believes can be carried out by Comer.

“We fully expect that he’s gonna win and that he’s gonna become the next governor of this great state,” Rowland said.

Comer will be running against Hal Heiner and Robert Lee Rosier in the Republican primaries next May.

With his hometown’s support, Comer is well encouraged for the race.

“I’m very proud of where I’m from, who my friends are, the school I attended and the lessons I learned,” Comer said.