As a 7th generation Kentuckian, I admire and love Kentucky traditions. As such, I believe deeply in our state motto: United We Stand, Divided We Fall. That’s why it saddens me to witness so much division in our Commonwealth, our Country and as a proud Republican, in the GOP today.
Recently, those wounds were opened even deeper after baffling remarks from our Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Commissioner Comer has been a public servant for over 13 years. He’s spent the majority of his adult life in public service and has a successful career. That’s why I invited him to speak to the Somerset-Pulaski Chamber of Commerce – to talk about his success as an elected official.
I expected to hear about the work he completed while in office as our state’s Agriculture Commissioner. Unfortunately, the Commissioner used a decidedly non-political event to jump start the 2015 race for Governor. This was neither the time nor place for such petty and paranoid comments.
Our chamber has hosted several statewide elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, to have a civil discourse about ideas and each official’s work in office. Each time Pulaski County leaders spoke positively about the visits, regardless of their political views. This wasn’t the case after Commissioner Comer spoke. At best, the course James Comer took has been curious and strange. The majority of members to whom I spoke were disappointed in the lack of political maturity to recognize this wasn’t the place for divisive statements. It especially wasn’t appropriate when the divisive statements were aimed at not just fellow Republicans, not just elected officials, but at Pulaski County’s own. I believe I speak for the majority who witnessed this oddity: “We’re not saying no to Jamie Comer, we’re just saying not yet.”
Commissioner Comer could have used this opportunity to unite Kentucky and Republicans for the future. As one of the few Republicans elected statewide, he has a platform that few others possess. However, he decided to ignore President Reagan’s 11th commandment “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican,” and blistered some of the leaders of our party.
Another great Republican uttered one of the greatest lines pertaining to unity that history records: “A House divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln used that speech to distinguish himself in a campaign for U.S. Senator. The legacy for that speech is unmistakable. Our current elected officials should focus on the future of our Commonwealth not self-serving interests that splits us.
Lincoln’s comments also remind me that while Kentucky is a conservative state, Republicans are in the minority of voter registrations. If our party is to gain control of the Governor’s mansion (not to mention control of the state House of Representatives), we must be united.
So, for the good of our Party, and Kentucky, I hope Commissioner Comer and any other gubernatorial aspirants will turn from the politics of personal destruction and focus on uniting our party. Without that union, Kentucky will be void of the conservative leadership it needs to pursue our path to prosperity.
Kentucky Republicans need to be the adults in the room. We’ll disagree about approaches from time to time, but if we are to change Kentucky for the better, we must mature. This gubernatorial race is a chance to do just that. I hope we see an extensive discussion of conservative ideas that will propel Kentucky forward. In the end, I will remind Mr. Comer and others that there is a difference between not being controlled and being out of control. Kentucky needs us. It’s time we start acting like individuals worth electing.
Chris Girdler is a Kentucky state senator representing District 15