James Comer says he’s ready to run for Kentucky governor if Matt Bevin backs out

If Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin changes his mind and decides not to seek reelection, there’s at least one Republican candidate itching to take his place: U.S. Rep. James Comer.

Comer, R-Tompkinsville, who lost the 2015 Republican gubernatorial primary to Bevin by just 83 votes, said he’s been fielding phone calls and texts from Republicans in Kentucky who are worried that Bevin has yet to file the paperwork required to run — even though he pledged to run again last summer.

“I have no interest in running against an incumbent governor in a primary, so the ball’s in Bevin’s court,” Comer said. If Bevin doesn’t file, Comer said he’d have a “significant interest in the race.”

“I’m getting a lot of calls and I think people realize that the longer he waits, the smaller the window is for an average person to file for governor,” he said.

For months, Bevin has stalled on filing the paperwork necessary to run for governor, causing consternation among Republicans in Frankfort and speculation among Democrats. No one seems to have a firm grasp on the cause for the delay, which could be the result of a difficult search for a new running mate for lieutenant governor or an attempt to freeze out other contenders in favor of a preferred successor.

Last month, Bevin told Louisville radio host Terry Meiners that he still plans to run.

“I have said that I’m going to do that and it is my intention to do that, Bevin said. “They don’t have to wait for me, anyone who wants to get in should get in.”

Comer suggested he’d move quickly should Bevin decide not to get in the race, noting that Kentucky law only requires two signatures on a candidate filing form.

“It’s not like it takes a long time to get ready,” he said.

Kentucky law also requires a gubernatorial candidate to name a running mate for lieutenant governor before they file their candidacy, a hurdle Comer says he would have no problem overcoming.

“I’ve had some conversations with some people,” he said. “I’m honored that a lot of quality people are calling to say they’d like to be my running mate.”

Comer, a close ally of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said a number of Republicans have encouraged him to consider a bid, but he insisted he was “really happy” in Washington.

The Democratic field is already starting to take shape just weeks before the January 29 filing deadline. Attorney General Andy Beshear, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins and former state auditor Adam Edelen have all filed paperwork saying they intend to run. Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath has said she’ll sit out the race while Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, are still officially undecided.

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