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With Northern Kentucky as "Sleeping Giant", Comer & McDaniel Kick Off Campaign

The announcement that Kenton County State Senator Chris McDaniel would be on the 2015 gubernatorial ballot as running mate to Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer got an encore presentation on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the pageantry associated with a new campaign was in full force in Tompkinsville, Comer's southern Kentucky hometown. Twenty-four hours later, the Republican ticket hit the opposite end of the state, the "sleeping giant" as Comer called it, "McDaniel country" as one Republican leader called it, "Northern Kentucky" as most people know it.

Though at one point the first-term Agirculture chief said that it didn't matter where McDaniel was from and that the senator was chosen to run with him based on his knowledge and fiscal prowess, Comer also said that Northern Kentucky could be key to winning in 2015. Having a young senator from the state's third most populous county where McDaniel won in 2012 with 60% of the vote would certainly be of some benefit.

"The lieutenant governor should be someone that can be governor, someone that can speak intelligently on the issues, someone that can answer tough questions, someone that has a vision for Kentucky," Comer said. "I don't need to tell you here today that I could not have selected a better lieutenant governor for the Commonwealth of Kentucky than Senator Chris McDaniel."

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Comer greets supporters/RCN

And from there, at McD Concrete headquarters in Erlanger where nearly every prominent local Republican filled the brand new warehouse, the love poured out.

"We started this campaign in my hometown of Tompkinsville and I can't tell you how much energy and excitement was there, kind of like we have today in this great building," Comer said. "People didn't know anything about him. He spent twenty-four hours in Monroe County meeting family, friends, some of our organization people across the state. They believe in Chris McDaniel. They see in Chris McDaniel instantly what you've seen in Chris McDaniel the past two years."

McDaniel was bragged upon for graduating from Covington Latin School at age 15, then heading off to the prestigious Citadel, and serving in the military before taking over McD.

In return, McDaniel was also highly complimentary of Comer.

"He's been dramatically different," McDaniel said of Comer as a politician. "He's someone with a bold agenda, with solid ideas who puts them out there and passes legislation. He can justifiably take credit for what he's done."

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McDaniel & Comer talk to reporters on Wednesday/RCN

The two bonded publicly in their remarks over the experience as small businessmen and McDaniel applauded Comer's clean up of the agriculture department in the wake of his predecessor Richie Farmer's eventual imprisonment. 

As Comer replaced Farmer as Commissioner of Agriculture, McDaniel replaces Farmer as a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor (though the pair must first fend off former Louisville councilman Hal Heiner and former Lexington councilwoman KC Crosbie in the GOP primary next May). Farmer was the bottom half of the GOP ticket, running with then-Senate President David Williams. That ticket was trounced by Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson just as Beshear ran away with the race in 2007 against incumbent Republican Ernie Fletcher who was then embroiled in his own political scandals.

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Comer/McDaniel sign hoisted high above McD Concrete in Erlanger/RCN

 With losses in nine of the last ten governor's races, Comer understands the landscape for Republicans.

"We're a red state," Comer said of the Commonwealth, a reference to Kentucky's electoral votes going in the R column the past four Presidential races and the state's federal Congressional delegation that has just one Democratic member out of eight. Statewide, though, Comer is the only Republican in a constitutional office. "The problem is," he continued, "is that Democrats have nominated better candidates that appeal to independents."

The Republicans have to compete for the votes of conservative Democrats and independents, Comer said. That's where Northern Kentucky comes into play. Historically, the northern-most part of the state has not participated strongly in governor races. The elections fall between federal election years, but if voters could be motivated to show up in a percentage to match its population, the region could tilt the election.
 
"If we can increase turnout in Northern Kentucky this is going to be a huge win in November," Comer said. Attorney General Jack Conway and State Rep. Sannie Overly make up the only announced Democratic ticket.
 
And that means McDaniel would be busy in Frankfort. Comer pledged that the 37-year old Taylor Mill resident would serve an active role in executive branch, with particular oversight of the state budget where he would root out waste and search for savings.
 
If Wednesday's event is any indication, Northern Kentucky is ready to show up for McDaniel. Or, at least, the connected Republican establishment is ready. Most local elected officials were not only present but on stage with Comer and McDaniel as their remarks were made.
 
Kenton County Republican Party Chairman Greg Shumate noted the long list of Northern Kentuckians who came up short in governor or lieutenant governor races while McDaniel made a joke about the last Northern Kentuckian elected, Covington state senator William Goebel who died from injuries suffered from an assassin's bullet days after taking the oath of office in 1900.
 
"This campaign is going to turn out different," Shumate said. "Jamie (Comer) has a great reputation statewide and a great reputation here in Northern Kentucky, so I'm very excited about this ticket."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

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