FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - James Comer on Friday conceded the governor's race, setting the stage for a showdown between Matt Bevin and Jack Conway.
Comer released a statement Friday, essentially handing the Republican nomination to Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. That put to end any speculation that there would be a drawn out battle for the nomination. It also allowed Bevin to officially launch his campaign and focus on the November election.
Bevin, during a news conference Friday morning in Frankfort, thanked everyone who participated in the GOP race. He said he has appreciation for each of the men, and said they would be "great assets" to his team and the entire ticket.
"I will be using them as a resource for issues that are strong in their minds," he said.
Bevin said they would display a unity that probably "would not sell a lot of papers." Throughout the news conference he made reference to juvenile tactics that will be employed by the Democrats, and he promised to get back to the values and roots that this country and state needs.
"There are clear, clear lines that will be drawn in the sand," Bevin said. He went on to say that what Democrats propose — from education issues to tax structure — will be night and day for the two parties. The values represented by the Republican ticket and "sadly, no longer represented on the Democratic ticket" will be apparent in the months ahead, Bevin said.
"We do represent Kentucky; we are Kentucky," he said.
Bevin, who was flanked by other Republican candidates seeking state office this fall, said he has not personally talked to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; he talked to his chief of staff. Still, Bevin said the party would be united and he expects to take advantage of fundraising streams from McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul.
"They made it clear this is a ticket they support," Bevin said of the U.S. senators from Kentucky. "They say they are glad of the opportunities this ticket provides with this entire slate."
Comer's concession could have been the first step in the journey to a united campaign. Comer, in a statement released to the media and on social media, made it clear that he supported Bevin.
Comer said he "enthusiastically" endorses Bevin's candidacy, saying he grew to appreciate his knowledge of issues, his work ethic and his morals.
The concession was apparently made shortly after Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes conducted a review and said the majority of votes were in and she did not anticipate any substantial change. Comer requested the review — a recanvass — shortly after a historic race in which Bevin had an 83-vote lead over Comer, the state's agriculture commissioner.
Comer could have tied this matter up in court by requesting an official recount Friday. However, Comer said he called Bevin and conceded minutes after Thursday's review of the May 19 primary. Comer delayed conceding publicly until Friday to give him time to contact some of his supporters. Comer also sent a Tweet, saying: "I called Matt Bevin yesterday to concede & congratulate him. I endorse Matt & pledge to help him win. Thx to #TeamComer 4 all the great work."
I called Matt Bevin yesterday to concede & congratulate him. I endorse Matt & pledge to help him win. Thx to #TeamComer 4 all the great work— James Comer (@KYComer) May 29, 2015
Bevin will now move on to face Democratic nominee Conway in November.
James Comer issued the following statement:
“Within minutes of receiving the results of the recanvass, I called Matt Bevin to concede and congratulate him on a hard fought victory. I asked Matt to afford me the opportunity to personally contact a few of my strongest supporters across the state to again thank them for their support and tell them about my concession. I promised Matt that I would release my statement prior to his Friday morning press conference with the Republican down ballot candidates.
Throughout the entire primary campaign, I grew to appreciate Matt Bevin’s knowledge of the issues, his work ethic, and his morals. Matt ran a clean campaign which focused on the issues important to Kentuckians. Matt Bevin will stand up to the special interest groups that have held our great state back and fight the corrupt elements that still exist in Frankfort. I enthusiastically endorse Matt Bevin for Governor and pledge to do everything I can to see that he wins in November.”
Attorney General Jack Conway issued this statement:
“I welcome Matt Bevin to the governor’s race as the Republican nominee. I look forward to a spirited race with my opponent and a conversation with voters over the next five months about the issues that matter most to Kentucky families.
This campaign is about standing up for their interests and values. It’s about moving Kentucky forward by creating good-paying jobs and growing our economy, investing in our education system at all levels, and building out our infrastructure. I’m the only candidate with a proven record of putting people over politics, and that’s a commitment I promise to keep.
Sannie Overly, our families and I are incredibly grateful to those who have opened their hearts and homes to us thus far, lending their friendship and support throughout this journey. We are excited to continue crisscrossing the state, visiting our counties and sharing our vision for Kentucky’s future with voters this summer and fall.”