Three Republican candidates are raising a lot of money and trading barbs in the race to succeed retiring 1st District Congressman Ed Whitfield, while on the Democratic side, Sam Gaskins of Hopkinsville is running unopposed.
John Null spoke with the Republican candidates ahead of the May 17 primary, including former state agriculture commissioner and gubernatorial candidate James Comer. Interviews with Mike Pape and Jason Batts will air Thursday and Friday, respectively.
On transitioning from last year's race for governor to his bid for Congress:
"I love public service. I know I can make a difference, so my wife and I decided to file our papers for Congress. I'm glad we did. It's been a lot different race because the press was consumed with the gubernatorial race last year. This year, it's honestly tough to compete with Donald Trump. Every news story that concerns politics is about Trump."
Comer says he's the only true "Washington outsider" in the Republican primary.
"Both Pape and Batts have worked for many years for Congressmen in Washington D.C. I'm the only one with a business background. I've owned businesses. I've created private sector jobs. I continue to have one of the larger farming operations in southcentral Kentucky. I've also been a part of other small businesses, but then I've got a record in the public sector. I've been a successful state Representative. I was commissioner of agriculture and totally transformed a government agency."
Pape and Batts have both said they would join the House Freedom Caucus if elected, but Comer says he would go his own way in Congress.
"Anyone that makes a pledge now to be in the Freedom Caucus is a follower. They're going to follow Congressmen from other states that are going to tell them how they have to vote on important issues. I'm going to be a leader. I'm going to vote the way I think is best for the 1st Congressional District. That may mean I vote with the Freedom Caucus on a lot of issues, but at the end of the day, I'm going to make the decision based on conversations with people in my district, not based on being in a closed-door, smoke-filled room with a bunch of disgruntled Congressmen."
Comer said he doesn't think religious liberty laws that would allow businesses to refuse services based on their religious beliefs are discriminatory. He also touts "a proven record of being opposed to same-sex marriages" and is pro-life.
"The first thing I'll do as a Congressman with respect to life is, I'm not going to allow any of our tax dollars to be spent on Planned Parenthood. That's not the role of the government by any stretch of the imagination. We need to cut wasteful spending, and I can't think of more wasteful spending anywhere in Washington D.C. than Planned Parenthood."
Comer, who carries endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he isn't supporting anyone for president, but the GOP's nominee should be whoever has the most votes.
"That's my message. Whoever has the most votes and the most delegates in August should be the person that gets to hold the banner this fall."