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Sources: Comer to Tap Northern Kentucky Senator as Running Mate in 2015 Governor's Race

Multiple sources have indicated to The River City News that Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer will announce a run for governor in the coming weeks and will name a Northern Kentucky state senator as his running mate.

Comer has long been thought of as a likely contender for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2015 but has yet to declare for the race. So far, Louisville businessman Hal Heiner and running mate, former Lexington city councilwoman KC Crosbie, is the only ticket formally in the race for the GOP nomination. Attorney General Jack Conway is running with State Rep. Sannie Overly on the Democratic side.

Sources have told RCN that Comer will select State Senator Chris McDaniel as his running mate. McDaniel, 36, was elected to represent Covington and northern Kenton County in Frankfort in 2012.

He did not confirm the speculation but said there have been talks.

"There have been a lot of conversations here and there with different folks," McDaniel told The River City News on Wednesday. "The good thing is, I've had a lot of people be good to me in Frankfort and I've had a lot of opportunities inside of the Senate that right now, I'm tickled with."

"I'd be flattered if I were offered the opportunity, depending on who it was with obviously. I don't think it's any big secret that one way or the other I'm going to support Commissioner Comer in his race, should he decide to run."

Comer, 41, of Tomkinsville, and McDaniel, of Taylor Mill, appeared together at the May launch of the Northern Kentucky Young Republicans. Comer made multiple strong references to Northern Kentucky's potential influence for Republicans in statewide elections. 

"This is the key to electing more Republicans statewide. This is the sleeping giant, Northern Kentucky," Comer said at the time. He pointed to the youthful Republican leaders in the region, identifying Kenton County Commissioner Kris Knochelmann (who won the Republican primary for Judge-Executive and will likely be unopposed in November), Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders, Republican nominee for County Attorney Stacy Tapke, and Circuit Court Clerk John Middleton. 

"This is going to be a game-changer for the future of Kentucky," Comer said in May. "When Northern Kentucky turns out like Fayette and Jefferson, overnight, Kentucky becomes a conservative, business-friendly state."

With a message like that, it would make sense to team up with a legislator from the region. Currently, Comer is the only Republican holding a statewide constitutional office. The governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and auditor are all Democrats.

"It's exciting and humbling that people think about you that way," McDaniel said. "I never got into this with the intent of anything other than, what can I do to make a difference, what can I do to help out."

Not even two full years removed from his first election, McDaniel has risen quickly in the Republican Party of Kentucky. "A lot of people have been very good to me and willing to help me learn the process of Frankfort. My background is in business," said McDaniel, who owns McD Concrete. "I understand how to run a business and how things work in private business. I understand the military. Learning the nuances of politics is a whole different ball of wax." McDaniel specifically pointed to Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) for taking him under his wing.
Still, he's surprised to be part of the gubernatorial conversation. "It's humbling," McDaniel said. "I could look around and see so many talented people around and to think someone would think of me in this light, to even have these conversations (is flattering)."
A phone message has been left with Commissioner Comer for comment.
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: James Comer speaks in Covington as Chris McDaniel (near window) listens in May/RCN file