Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer on Wednesday announced his candidacy for Congress in the state’s 1st District – a day after U.S. Rep. Edward Whitfield said he would not seek a 12th term.
Comer’s announcement came several hours after Michael Pape , Whitfield’s district director, said he, too, would seek the Republican nomination for his boss’ seat. Kentucky Republican operatives said Wednesday that Comer, who lost the May gubernatorial primary to Matt Bevin by only 83 votes – a total that was buoyed by his performance in the 1st District – would likely be the initial frontrunner.
"As a farmer, small business owner, and father of three, it is important to me that we have a conservative representative in Washington." Comer said in a statement. "I appreciate the service of Congressman Whitfield and his commitment to the people of the First District.”
Pape, speaking to a local radio station Tuesday evening, touted his experience having worked in Whitfield's congressional office since he was elected in 1994.
The rural district – which spans 211 miles across southwestern Kentucky and is dominated by agriculture – has only been represented by a Republican since the so-called “Republican Revolution” of 1994.
The district “has changed so much since '94,” said Scott Jennings, a former Bush administration official who is considering his own campaign. He described it as home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “true base” in the state – moderates, some Democrats, who vote for Republicans.
“This race is important for sure,” he said, but he said he had not made a decision on a campaign.
These days, the district is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call, is attracting the attention of a several other possible Republican candidates, including state Sen. Max Wise .
Whitfield announced his decision to not seek another term amid an ethics investigation into whether he and his wife, a lobbyist, coordinated efforts on issues on which she was advocating.
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