U.S. Rep. Comer wants House chairmanship, not governorship

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Rep. James Comer said Thursday that he currently has no plans to run for Kentucky governor in 2023, saying his sights are on another prize — the chairmanship of a key congressional committee.

Comer lost a heartbreaking race for governor in 2015, falling short of the Republican nomination by a mere 83 votes. Matt Bevin, the GOP nominee that year, went on to defeat Democrat Jack Conway.

The following year, Comer was elected to Congress from Kentucky’s 1st District, and he has quickly risen to become ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

“I’m very happy doing what I’m doing right now,” Comer told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I’m in a tremendous place in Congress.”

Comer’s name has been atop the list of potential GOP candidates to challenge Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who narrowly defeated Bevin in 2019. But if the GOP retakes the U.S. House next year, Comer would be in line to become chairman of the oversight panel, the chamber’s main investigative committee. For now, that’s his main political objective.

“I have no plans on running for governor at this moment,” Comer said. “Right now my plans are to stay in Congress. Of course, you never know where tomorrow leads, but right now I think that the best place for me, in the position I’m in on the House Oversight Committee, is to stay in Congress.”

The congressman sounded upbeat about GOP chances to regain the House majority, saying: “I think our odds of flipping the House next year are getting better every day.”

Comer didn’t completely rule out a gubernatorial bid in 2023 if Democrats keep control of the House in next year’s election. He’s watching who is lining up on the GOP side to run for governor and signaled that he could end up backing someone, though he didn’t say who that might be.

“My goal for Kentucky is to get a good conservative governor,” Comer said. “And if I see a good candidate out there that I’m friends with that I think can win, then I’ll certainly support that candidate.”

Comer said he sees Beshear as “very beatable” in a state dominated by the GOP.

“I think his policies have been counterproductive to the business owners and working middle class of Kentucky,” Comer said. “And I think that the average voter sees that.”

“The only reason Andy Beshear won the last time is Matt Bevin was the most unpopular guy in Kentucky,” Comer added.

Republicans are preparing for what could be a crowded field of candidates vying to run against Beshear. State Auditor Mike Harmon entered the race last month. Others eyeing a potential run include former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

Jockeying among GOP gubernatorial hopefuls will be a main theme at this weekend’s Fancy Farm picnic and at the Republican gatherings leading up to the picnic. Beshear is skipping the event — regarded as the state’s premier political event.

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