By Sam Youngman
A Republican polling memo obtained by the Herald-Leader shows Agriculture Commissioner James Comer with a commanding early lead over former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner in the 2015 gubernatorial primary.
While neither man has announced a run for governor, both have indicated they’re likely to do so.
The poll, conducted by Robert Blizzard at Public Opinion Strategies, found Comer leading Heiner 42 percent to 14 percent among 400 Republican primary voters between Feb. 26-27. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Blizzard and Public Opinion Strategies have done polling for a number of Kentucky Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and state Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer.
Comer and other would-be candidates are prohibited from polling before officially launching a campaign, but Blizzard said in an email that “the poll was not paid for by any candidate, prospective candidate or political action committee.”
The questions asked and methodology used in the poll were not included in the memo.
The survey showed Comer with enormous leads in all media markets in the state except Heiner’s hometown of Louisville. Comer led by 49 percentage points in the Lexington media market, by 29 points in the Cincinnati market and by 53 points in the Western Kentucky media market.
Joe Burgan, an advisor to Heiner and spokesman for Heiner’s New Direction Kentucky Super PAC, said in an email that Comer, who has been to all of Kentucky’s 120 counties twice during his time as agriculture commissioner, should have polled better given his strong name identification.
“We are surprised that a statewide constitutional office holder who has spent the last three years campaigning across the commonwealth, and who spent 11 years in the legislature before that, would be so far below 50 percent against a relative unknown statewide,” Burgan said. “We are a little confused why they would choose to release a poll that shows their candidate in such a vulnerable position, but we are sure glad they did.”
Heiner leads Comer by 11 percentage points in the Louisville media market. Potential GOP candidate Cathy Bailey, a former ambassador to Latvia, was not included in the memo.
“While [Comer] trails Heiner by just 11 points in the Louisville market, in previous races for governor, Louisville candidates like Anne Northup and Rebecca Jackson just haven’t been able to expand past the built‐in support in their home market,” Blizzard wrote in the memo.
The polling memo included a question on charter schools, an issue dear to Heiner, finding that a majority of respondents “aren’t that familiar” with the issue.
The poll found that while 38 percent had a favorable view of charter schools to only 8 percent with an unfavorable view, more than half — 53 percent — didn’t know enough about the matter to have an opinion.