Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and his running mate, State Senator Chris McDaniel, are framing their 2015 gubernatorial campaign around both conservative and liberal-leaning agenda items.
Following a campaign kick-off Tuesday before about 2,000 people, Comer and McDaniel discussed their support for right-to-work laws and lower corporate tax rates. They also offered ideas to create an earned income tax credit for working-class families and rescinding tax incentives for businesses that don’t pay employees a living wage.
But Comer told reporters that there’s a difference between his party and the Democrats, which control the state House.
“Democrats think that by simply raising the minimum wage, they’re going to stimulate the economy. The Republicans want to create a business-friendly environment," Comer said.
Comer indicated he likely wouldn’t raise taxes to pay down the ballooning debt of underfunded state employee pensions, which stand at over $30 billion.
But Comer didn’t take a position on the future of the Affordable Care Act in the state.
Comer acknowledged to reporters the Affordable Care Act’s success in his native Monroe County, and said he would wait to see what Congress did before he decided whether to repeal it.
“There’s no question it’s a good thing to have health insurance, but the problem is somebody has to pay for it," he said. "And the next administration is going to have to figure out a way to pay for this Medicaid expansion.”
More than 520,000 Kentuckians have obtained insurance via the state’s health insurance exchange under the ACA, with about three-quarters enrolled in Medicaid. Beginning in 2016, the state will begin paying a portion of the expansion, up to 10 percent in the coming years.
As for the campaign, neither Comer nor McDaniel said how much money they plan to raise against primary opponent Hal Heiner, who has invested millions of his own money into his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
McDaniel, whose district is in Northern Kentucky and who owns a construction firm, took a jab at Heiner and Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat in the race, over their urban roots.
Heiner and Conway hail from Louisville.
“I have a message for some of the other campaigns out there. Farmers were Kentucky’s were original business owners. And never underestimate a Kentucky farmer.” McDaniel said.
On that note, Comer's support stretched into Louisville.
State Senator Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican, attended the Tompkinsville rally to support Comer— despite the fact that Heiner lives in her district.
“There is a lot of support for Jamie in Jefferson County," Denton said. "In the circles that I run in, I know very few people who are not supporting Jamie.”