tv Interview with Representative James Comer CSPAN January 16, 2017 1:28am-1:43am EST
world. we have a lot of work to do to not only keep policy up-to-date, that the more future looking as well. >> watch "the communicators," monday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2. >> now, a look at some of the newly elected members of congress. we recently met up with them at the longworth house office building on capitol hill. comer,ressman james republican of kentucky, represented the first esther. you have any public service most of your adult life. what have you been doing? >> i have been involved in a lot of things. primarily, i started my own business. i'm a family farmer, the only farmer in this freshman class, so that is my private background. i am very proud of what i have achieved. from the public service standpoint, i started out very early, at 27, for kentucky state representative. i served 11 terms -- 11 years,
six terms. i represented for counties in south-central kentucky. in 2011i filed for the commission of agriculture, which is an elected statewide position. i won that year, i was the top vote getter in the state, the only republican to win that year. i served four years as kentucky commissioner of agriculture. then congressman whitfield announced he was retiring, so i filed for congress because i felt like i can make a difference, and i won the primary and general. >> you have been serving already. host: you have been serving already. you were sworn in earlier? congressman comer: i was. and i was very lucky to get to start immediately. congressman whitfield resigned so i was actually on the ballot twice in november once for the regular two-year term which began this week and then once developed the remainder of his term. that was a big deal for seniority because i started
after the election, i was dead last in seniority and then on january 3, i moved up 51 slots in seniority. that was a big deal. host: here we are in your office. congressman comer: on the wall, two things i want to point out. right here, this is very special to me. when i was a freshman in the kentucky house of representatives, i was nominated, each state gets to nominate an outstanding freshman to the national republican legislators association for outstanding freshman, and i won the 2002 freshman of the year award nationally. i believe i was the only one from kentucky who has ever one not. that. has ever won when i was elected my first term, there were 35 republicans and 65 democrats. now that is completely flipped but at that time, it was a 2-1 democratic majority. i was able to work with the democrats, find common ground, and pass bills that had consensus that actually made a
difference in kentucky. host: what is some of the work you did previously that you want to continue doing in washington? congressman comer: i'm like every american. i'm frustrated with the gridlock in washington. my years of public service has been about bringing people together and trying to find common ground, and move our economy forward. i'm frustrated with the regulatory burden that takes place that's coming out of washington, d.c. that's my biggest criticism of the obama administration. in my district, we had the epa. there really has been a war on coal. the corps of engineers has been a big impediment to development, especially with the lakes. we have a lot of lakes in kentucky from the eastern part of my district to the western part of the district. the private developers want to
invest private money. they want to expand. there's demand for more boat slips and more development on the lakes, but the core has to -- but the army corps of engineers has to approve it. it's holding us back from creating jobs, increasing tourism. the same with the river industry along the mississippi river and the ohio river which is in my district. i want to do something about the regulatory burden. i want to focus on trying to grow the business climate to where in my rural district the best and brightest young people in the small counties can stay in the small counties and they don't have to go to college somewhere away from home and then they never return back to home. we call that a brain drain. i want to keep those best and brightest young people in kentucky. i'm really optimistic that there's a window of opportunity for conservatives and pro-business congressman, and to be able to account for -- accomplish something.
host: what role does the hemp industry play in kentucky and in your district? congressman comer: i'm really proud of our work with the industrial hemp. i have to make sure your viewers know there's a difference between hemp and marijuana. hemp and marijuana are like broccoli and cauliflower. that's kind of like industrial hemp and marijuana. they are both in the cannabis plant family but they're different plants. industrial hemp is in agriculture crop just like corn or soybeans. when i was commissioner of agriculture, one of the first initiatives i announced in kentucky was we were going to legalize industrial hemp in kentucky and believing state in -- and we were going to be the leading state in the nation. people rolled their eyes and said that's the craziest thing i've ever heard, and went on. after i announced it at the state fair in kentucky in august of 2012, i had just been office six months, i went all over the state educating people doing
town hall meetings and issue got -- and the issue got a lot of press. i put together a bipartisan coalition, and you will see here, this is an interesting group that the c-span viewers will look at it and say, i've never seen those three people together on anything. paul, whonator rand is republican, congressman thomas massey is off the charts conservative, and john yarmuth , who is one of the most liberal members of congress. we don't agree on everything but we agreed on this issue. i brought this group together along with other representatives and senators and kentucky -- in the kentucky general assembly in both parties.
to try to make this a reality, to try to be bold. and we talked about this as way to create jobs in the state. i didn't make it a republican versus democrat issue like what we see in washington every day. and what we've been seeing in frankfort. i want to accomplish this. legislators and congressman file bills knowing they're going to fail just of the complaint the other party and think of grandstand to the press that well, we could of done this by the other party stood in the way, or whatever. i want to get things done. that's what we did with this bill. we passed it in the general assembly. when i filed it a democrat speaker was adamantly against it. the republican president of the senate was adamantly against it. the governor, democrat governor, was against it. when you have that scenario, 100% of the time the bill would fail. but we have public support. there was grassroots effort. liberals liked it because it is
a sustainable crop. conservatives like to because this is an example of the government standing in the way of the private sector. so we brought these groups together and passed the bill in frankfort. then what the building was set up a regulatory framework for the kentucky department of agriculture, which i was in charge of what has commission -- which i was in charge of when i was commissioner of agriculture. to make a long story short, kentucky is a leading industrial hemp producing state in the nation. we have over 500 people employed in the state of kentucky. we have more and more people everyday wanted to grow hemp. the demand for industrial hemp continues to increase. so my first bill as a member of congress is going to be the bill that congressman matthey, he's handing it off to me, i'm going to try to get past this time with his help and will have a lot of democrats which you will hear about soon. we will try to deregulate it now because we had to regulate it and get it passed to provoke
-- to prove that it was not a drug. now we're going to ask that hemp be treated like corn or soybeans. i'm proud of what we accomplished when i was commissioner of agriculture. host: what inspired you to serve, be a public servant? congressman comer: i've always had an interest in being a public servant. both my grandfathers were interested in politics. they went, when the politicians running for statewide office, would come to their town. both my grandfathers were chairman of the republican party in their towns. my maternal grandfather was from tennessee. my paternal grandfather was kentucky. they only live eight miles apart. but both were delegates to the republican convention at different times. i was raised a republican and i was raised as someone that knew when their third or congress and
-- there senator or congressman was on tv. i would knew who local elected officials were. i was always active. when i went to western kentucky university, i was very active in the college republicans. i worked in campaigns. when you would volunteer for free in a campaign, you can get good jobs in campaigns as i worked a lot of campaigns when i was in college, and met a lot of people. i was active in high school and college, in the future farmers of america. i was state president in kentucky. that helped branch out and meet more people. i was in a position of 27 filed for state rep to put together pretty good organization because i had worked in different campaigns and had the opportunity to travel the state and meet a lot of people from rural areas. host: you came to washington when you were a younger man. that picture over here to tell -- the picture over your
shoulder. tell us about that. congressman comer: yeah, so i was elected kentucky state ffa president right out of high school, and one of the first things you do when your estate to to farmers of america president is you get to go to what's called the national presidents conference where all 50 states presidents, state ffa president skewed to come to washington, meet your senator and congressman. well, at the time you could just walk in and see your senator and congressman without an appointment or anything. he saw my jacket and he said, comer, where you from? i said monroe county. monroe county is 91% republican.
i said, that's my grandfather. he said that you're a republican. he said if you are state ffa president, you may be here in washington someday. and i said i want to do better than that. i want to be commissioner of agriculture and kentucky. he laughed about that. at the time, that was a bigger deal than being in washington. now i realize it's not. that's a pretty interesting picture, and who would have thought in 1990 right out of high school that i would be serving with senator mcconnell. and he was very active in my campaign and a big supporter in the primary and in the general. host: what about your family, young children? congressman comer: i have three young children, a 12-year-old girl, nine-year-old boy and five-year-old girl. and my wife and i have been married 13 years. host: will they be joining you in washington? congressman comer: they will. they are in route now as we speak. this weekend is a freshman retreat. so all the freshman were invited to go to a retreat where we can have more of an orientation,
learn more about the process, learn more about what role the staff play a leadership staff and team that we can do to be better congressman. and it's a family affair so our family can come along and there's a program for kids. host: what did your family think when you won? congressman comer: they were excited. i obviously have been in politics a long time. i was a state representative i was in my second term when i got married, so she knew what she was getting into, and it wasn't any secret that i had a little
ambition and wanted to do a little more than the state representative. she was very supportive of me when we got married to be in politics, and she's been the perfect spouse. i couldn't do any better. she is a mother to our children. she's always there for me and she's a great public speaker. she travels with me when she can in the campaigns, and action is a bigger hit on the campaign dress that i am. she does a great job and she is all in with his congressional opportunity. >> tell us about what you were doing before you run for office. >> i was serving on this the council where i lived in her most of each. -- hermosa beach. law?y did you go into >> when i was a