- Associated Press - Friday, September 19, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Former Republican Congresswoman Anne Northup endorsed James Comer for governor on Friday in an attempt to solidify his support in the state’s largest city.

Comer’s campaign touted Northup’s support as a “blockbuster endorsement” given that Northup endorsed Comer over Hal Heiner, the former Louisville metro councilman who announced his candidacy for governor in March.

Northup supported Heiner’s 2010 unsuccessful run for mayor of Louisville. She donated money to him, and said her husband served on Heiner’s advisory committee. But while Northup said she had “nothing bad to say about Hal Heiner,” she said repeatedly how “disappointing and disheartening” it was to see Heiner lose.

She praised Comer’s ability as the only Republican to win a statewide race in 2012 when he was elected the state’s agriculture commissioner.

“You have to be able to run a good campaign,” Northup said. “That ability to focus and accomplish things in terms of the campaign is something Jamie Comer has proven time and again.”

In response, Heiner’s campaign said “Kentuckians are tired of hearing about the past. This campaign is about the future.”

Northup represented Louisville in the U.S. House of Representatives for five terms before being defeated by Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth in 2006, the year Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate amid sagging approval numbers of Republican President George W. Bush. She challenged Kentucky’s scandal-plagued incumbent Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher in 2007, but lost in the primary. Comer, then a state legislator, supported Northup in that race.

Heiner is counting on lots of support from Jefferson County, where he was a Louisville metro councilman for eight years before running for mayor in 2010, losing in a tight race to Democrat Greg Fischer by less than 3 percentage points.

A Republican losing to a Democrat in a countywide race should not make Republicans doubt Heiner’s ability to win statewide, said Rebecca Jackson, the former Jefferson County judge executive who lost to Fletcher in the 2003 Republican primary for governor.

“In Jefferson county, it is very difficult for a Republican to win. It’s easier for Republican to win the entire state of Kentucky,” she said. “I think Hal has a lot of support in Jefferson County. I don’t see that completely diminishing by this one endorsement.”

Comer announced his candidacy for governor at Fancy Farm. He said Kentucky’s next governor “won’t be a millionaire from Louisville,” a reference to Heiner. Since Comer is from small rural Tompkinsville, many interpreted his comments to mean he would make the race about urban versus rural issues.

Comer has tried to fight that notion by touting his support among notable Louisville Republicans, including Northup and state Sen. Julie Denton. Comer said Louisville is “very important” to him winning the nomination.

“Louisville is the economic engine for the state,” he said. “This is where all the action is.”

Northup now works as a lobbyist for Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. She said she spends three days a week in Washington, D.C., but said she is still heavily involved in Kentucky and Louisville politics.

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