The Walking Horse Report recently sat down with James Comer, who is seeking election in Kentucky’s First Congressional District in this year’s Congressional elections. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Ed Whitfield’s retirement from Congress. Comer, who has ties to the Walking Horse industry will be an advocate for the Tennessee Walking Show Horse. His competition in the race, Michael Pape, a Whitifeld disciple, would be an advocate for the Humane Society of the United States. Comer will be in attendance at the National Trainers’ Show on Saturday, March 19th.

Comer will be in the Bob Garner Room in Calsonic Arena at 4:30PM on Saturday prior to the show for a meet and greet.  Contributions to his campaign will be accepted and checks can be made to Comer For Congress.


WHR – Can you give us a little background about yourself, your education and career path?

JC - I was raised in Tompkinsville, Ky., and attended Monroe Co. public schools. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Western Kentucky University in 1993 with a degree in Agriculture and a minor in political science. While at WKU, I served as Kentucky State FFA President and was very active in the College Republicans.


I went home to Monroe County every weekend and worked on my family farming operation. Immediately after college, I went to the bank and started borrowing money and buying land and cattle. I have built one of the larger farming operations in south central Kentucky. While I was farming and starting new businesses, I was very active in my community and even served as President of the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce. I also served as a director at South Central Bank.


In 2000, at age 27, I was elected Kentucky State Representative for four counties in south central Kentucky and served six terms in the General Assembly. In 2011, I was elected statewide as Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture and served one four-year term. I have been married to Tamara Jo Harlan Comer for 12 years and we have three children.


WHR – I understand that your family has a link to Tennessee Walking Horses, can you explain your family’s history with Walking Horses?

JC - Both my father and grandfather showed Tennessee Walking Horses in the 1950's and 1960's. My grandfather (Harlin Comer) was a huge Walking Horse enthusiast and never missed a Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration even up until his death in the 1993. My father (Dr. James R. Comer, Sr.) says that his only memory of family vacations growing up as a child was spending a week in Shelbyville attending the Celebration. Both my father and grandfather showed at the Celebration and countless county fair shows in Tennessee and Kentucky. In fact, my grandfather was in the construction business, and he built and owned the original Walmart Shopping Center Mall in Shelbyville up until the early 1980's. 


WHR – As a strong advocate for agriculture, can you give us some of the accomplishments you reached during your term as Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture?

JC - I have a passion for agriculture. All I ever wanted to do was farm and be a leader in agriculture. As Commissioner, I fought daily for our family farmers by fighting back against extremist organizations like HSUS and out-of-control Federal Government Bureaucracies like the EPA and the Corps of Engineers. I had success in defeating the Obama Administration in Federal Court when they tried to derail my Industrial Hemp Pilot Project, and I spent every day promoting Kentucky Agriculture and telling about all the great things that family farmers do.


WHR – You recently ran for Governor and lost one of the closest elections in history. Can you give us those details and what you learned while going through that race?

JC - I lost a four-way Republican Primary for Governor by only 83 votes out of over 222,000 votes cast (a margin of 0.0004%.) I won four Congressional Districts, to one for third place finisher Hal Heiner and one to the eventual winner Matt Bevin. After Bevin won the primary against me by 83, he went on to win the General by 90,000 votes. The good thing about my Congressional race is the fact that I won the First Congressional District by 31 percentage points over Bevin (58% to Bevin's 27% and Heiner's 13%) so I am starting this Congressional race with excellent name identification and a tremendous organizational infrastructure. I learned many lessons, none more important than every vote counts! I also learned in the First Congressional District who were effective organizers and who were not. I have made some adjustments to my organization this time that should help me do better this May.


WHR – Rep. Whitfield has been extremely detrimental to agriculture and more specifically the Tennessee Walking Horse. Can you give us your thoughts on Rep. Whitfield?

JC - I can say with 100% confidence, Ed Whitfield is an animal rights activist who has many positions that are detrimental to Kentucky agriculture. I spent many hours battling with his beloved HSUS and trying to keep them from negatively influencing our Livestock Care Standards Commission, spooking my board appointed Kentucky State Veterinarian, or spinning negative stories about our poultry, swine, dairy cattle, or equine industry. Having said that, I am 100% supportive of the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry. I believe that the Tennessee Walking Horse breeders have been victimized by HSUS, and I will be a strong voice in Washington, DC in support of the industry. I will be the exact opposite of Whitfield. If I win, the industry will replace the worst member in Congress with one of the best with respect to Tennessee Walking Horse issues.


WHR – Who is your competition in the election?

JC - The race to replace Whitfield is for all practical purposes over in the Republican Primary on May 17th. My biggest competition in this race is Ed Whitfield's District Director Michael Pape. Pape has been Whitfield's top employee and sidekick in Kentucky from the very beginning over the past 21 years that Whitfield has served in Congress. Ed Whitfield signed Pape's filing papers, endorsed Pape, and is on the phone daily raising money for Michael Pape. HSUS and their donor base is strongly supporting Michael Pape. Whoever wins the primary in two months will be the next Congressman. So there is no backup plan if Pape wins. If anyone wants to replace an enemy to the industry with a friend, then now is the only time to do it, and I am the only candidate who can defeat Whitfield's attempt to pass his seat down to his hand picked successor and loyal follower.


WHR – What are the major differences between you and your competition?

JC - First, I am the only candidate running who has had any success in the private sector. I am a businessman who has started several successful businesses. I am the only candidate who has a voting record from serving 11 years as a Kentucky State Representative. I am the only candidate running who has successfully fought back against federal government overreach and the Obama Administration. I am strongly supported by Sen. Mitch McConnell who has been a close friend of the Walking Horse Industry. I am pro-business, socially conservative, supported by the NRA, and am the only candidate who knows anything about agriculture.


WHR – How do you view the importance economically of the industry?

JC - I realize the economic significance of the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry, and I will be a strong voice for the industry. There are many quality breeders and trainers throughout the First Congressional District and I will be very accessible to them. I feel that the industry's potential is unlimited, but we must first defeat HSUS and get the bureaucracies off the backs of the breeders. I realize that the overwhelming majority of horses are treated better than any other type of livestock. I showed Charolais Beef Cattle for many years, so I know a lot about showing livestock. The breeders do everything right and it is a tragedy how this industry has been treated. I want to bring positive change to the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry.


WHR – How important is agriculture in your district?

JC - Agriculture is the leading industry in the First Congressional District. Poultry, grain, tobacco, beef, dairy and equine are all the major agricultural crops in the district. I am the only candidate with an agriculture background. If I am elected to Congress, I will have one of the strongest agricultural resumes of anyone ever elected to the U.S. Congress.


WHR – Give us the details on when the election will happen and the what area defines KY-01?

JC - The Republican Primary is May 17th. Then for all practical purposes, the election is over. The democrats only have a token candidate. There are four Republicans running. KY-01 runs along the Tennessee border from Albany to the Mississippi River. It is a rural, Republican voting district.