FRANKFORT, Kentucky — Republican James Comer got his campaign for governor off to a fast start, raising $534,000 in 22 days after announcing his candidacy September 13 in Tompkinsville.
Comer touted his numbers, coupled with the recent endorsements of U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield and former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup, as evidence of his campaign's strength seven months before the Republican primary and more than a year before the general election.
But Hal Heiner, Comer's only other declared Republican opponent, suggested that Comer's aggressive fundraising was hurting Republican candidates who are trying to take control of the state House of Representatives in November for the first time since 1920.
The spat is the first of many between the two candidates as the campaigns vie for a governor's seat that is open for just the second time in two decades. Current Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear cannot run again because of term limits.
Heiner raised $56,492 in the three month reporting period that ended Sept. 30. He attributed his low total to the fact that he has pledged not to hold fundraising events until after the November House elections. He said his political action committee, New Direction Kentucky, raised more than $250,000 for Republican state House candidates. And he criticized Comer for starting his campaign earlier than he said he would.
"When I entered this race I pledged to put aside gubernatorial fundraising events until after November, focusing instead on electing state legislators who will help change Kentucky," Heiner said in a news release. "Unlike my opponent, I have kept my promises."
Comer campaign manager Holly Harris VonLuehrte said Comer has appeared at dozens of fundraisers for House Republican candidates across the state, often as the keynote speaker. She noted his strong support among the House Republican caucus, including House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover. And she said Heiner's campaign has had to rely on the $4 million Heiner gave to his campaign over the summer.
"Historically, that is not very successful because very few Kentuckians are invested in you," she said. "It will make success very difficult in May."
Jack Conway, the only Democrat who has officially announced for governor, raised $397,539 in the three month fundraising quarter that ended Sept. 30. His campaign has raised more than $1.1 million since announcing his candidacy in May. Conway, the attorney general, has $978,044 available to spend.
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