Hal Heiner Delivers Late Hit To James ComerNo one knows how the domestic abuse accusations against State Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer will impact Tuesday's Kentucky Republican gubernatorial primary. Comer remains in a three-way dead heat against businessmen Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin. Whether or not voters are inclined to believe the charges, and whether they will move to sink or buoy Comer, is unclear.
Heiner has been insisting his campaign had nothing to do with spreading the allegations. But in the last days of the campaign, Heiner's political consultants are rolling the dice, and having the candidate directly raise – if not level – the charges in a closing campaign ad.
Hal Heiner Elevates The Domestic Abuse AccusationsThe title of the ad, "Jamie Comer And Matt Bevin Exploit Abuse Allegations For Political Gain," reflects the bank shot Heiner is trying to pocket. He's not outright saying that Comer is an abuser; he's saying both of his opponents are engaging in negative campaigning.
Instead of using a detached narrator or regular citizens to discuss the volatile issue, Heiner himself speaks to the camera and says: "It's the kind of politics people hate. You've heard the abuse charges against Jamie Comer. Now, Matt Bevin and Jamie are using these charges to score political points."
Heiner doesn't flatly say he believes the charges. But the initial frame of the ad blares the headline, "College girlfriend says James Comer abused her," overshadowing the Comer and Bevin TV ads which play the background.
Heiner then leans in further. Perhaps in a play for the women's vote, Heiner suggests the accuser deserves the benefit of the doubt: "Instead of protecting the young lady and three witnesses who came forward, Jamie and Matt are assigning blame, and accusing these women of lies and payoffs – attacking them for their own political gain."
Meanwhile, more headlines and quotes are displayed that implicitly charge Comer and Bevin with smearing the woman at the center of the case, such as, "I've heard unpleasant things about her personality and mental state" and "The woman... was probably offered money."
Is Hal Heiner Being a Hypocrite On Negative Ads?At the end, Heiner circles back to his main pitch, "If you want to reject this type of politics, and elect a true conservative... I'd be grateful for your vote."
Of course, Heiner will surely be accused of doing exactly what he claims his opponents are doing: "using these charges to score political points."
But like the other candidates, he only needs a plurality to win. It doesn't matter if a majority of Republican primary voters think he's a hypocrite if he can own a sizable faction of Republicans who see him as the only candidate willing to take a clear stand against domestic abuse.
What's unknown is if such a faction would constitute a plurality, unless his political consultants know something we don't.