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James Comer Elected to Fill Open Seat in Kentucky’s 1st District

Former Kentucky agriculture commissioner will be seated immediately

Rep.-elect James Comer will be able to take his seat for the lame-duck session. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep.-elect James Comer will be able to take his seat for the lame-duck session. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican James Comer will defeat Democrat Samuel L. Gaskins in Kentucky’s 1st District, The Associated Press projects.

Comer led Gaskins 72 percent to 28 percent with 23 percent of precincts reporting. 

[Election Results 2016]

Coming into Election Day, the race for the seat in the far reaches of Western Kentucky was rated Safe Republican by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Comer, the former Kentucky agriculture commissioner, will actually have won two elections Tuesday, for the same office. Voters in the district were casting ballots for the seat for the next Congress, as well as to fill out the unexpired term of former Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield.

The victory is a remarkable rebound for Comer, who came within less than 100 votes for winning the GOP nomination for governor just last year. Former Mitch McConnell primary challenger Matt Bevin finished first and went on to win the general election.

Whitfield, a longtime lawmaker and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, resigned from the House effective Sept. 6, under an ethics cloud. 

[Kentucky Rep. Whitfield to Resign From Congress Next Week]

He was rebuked by the Ethics Committee because it said he “failed to prohibit lobbying contacts between his staff and his wife.”

Comer said before the election that his goal will be to pick up a seat on the Energy and Commerce panel, and his early arrival should give him seniority over other newly elected House Republicans.

It also means that Comer will be able to cast important votes almost immediately on legislation to fund the government beyond November.

A stalwart conservative, Comer, 44, has worked as a public servant for most of his adult life. From 2001 to 2012, he was a GOP representative to the Kentucky House. He served as state agriculture commissioner from 2012 through this January. 

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