Republican Ryan Quarles elected ag commissioner

Republican state Rep. Ryan Quarles has defeated his Democratic rival in a hard-fought race to be Kentucky’s next agriculture commissioner.

Quarles campaigned on his farming pedigree: He raised crops on his family’s central Kentucky farm to help pay for college, where he studied agricultural economics on his way to becoming a lawyer.

The 31-year-old lawmaker from Georgetown narrowly won the Republican nomination. In the general election, he faced Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, an agribusiness executive and host of a long-running weekly radio show on farm issues.

The two battled to replace Republican James Comer, who opted to run for governor instead of seeking re-election. He narrowly lost to Matt Bevin in the Republican primary.

Quarles will oversee the agency with a $17 million budget and 225 employees.

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