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[Audio] Fancy Farm Emcee Scott Jennings & RunSwitch's Les Fugate Preview Saturday Event

Jenni Todd, WKMS

Conservative columnist and RunSwitch co-founder Scott Jennings emcees tomorrow's Fancy Farm political picnic. He and Les Fugate, also with the public relations firm RunSwitch, speak with Matt Markgraf about the event, bringing together politicians and people from across the political divide for a day of rowdy, old-time stump speaking. Jennings has spent the last couple months preparing for the big day.

Jennings said he feels ready. He's been following his own advice to politicians: don't go out there without a plan."When you go up to the Fancy Farm podium and you throw your script out the window, that's when things go off the rails."  

He said there will be no 'sacred cows' at this event. While his approach will be more right of center than last year's left-learning emcee Matt Jones, he said anyone on stage and in national politics deserves some 'observations' at Fancy Farm. Everyone is fair game, he said, and there's a difference between being funny and being mean-spirited. 

Fancy Farm is unique in that the crowd is participatory the entire time, Jennings said, adding that goal of the emcee is to get the crowd 'amped up' and excited for what they're about to see. He said you want a crowd engaged with the speakers in a civil way.

Prominent Kentucky Democrats Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Attorney General Andy Beshear are sitting out Fancy Farm this year, which leaves Lexington Mayor and Rand Paul challenger Jim Gray standing as the lone statewide Democrat. Fugate said though he's a Rand Paul supporter he feels disappointed for Gray. He said it's difficult enough getting up on stage at Fancy Farm let alone doing it with no one by your side.

Jennings added there have been times in recent history where Democrats have far outnumbered Republicans on the Fancy Farm stage or races where Republicans didn't have a chance of winning, but still showed up and participated. He said he likes Beshear personally and thinks of him as a good public servant and hoped he would come.

The battle for the Kentucky House of Representatives (held by Democrats) is one of the biggest political stories in the state this year, Jennings said. He said many of the Republican politicians on stage will try to make the case for flipping the House. He predicts Governor Matt Bevin (who will be at the event) will be the chief spokesman on this. The problem for Democrats, he said, is that they don't have a natural debate partner to speak against the governor, a role Beshear was likely to have played.

When Governor Bevin made a run for the office, he did so as a relative outsider to Kentucky politics. Jennings said among Republicans he has done a good job, citing an approval rating poll which had Bevin up nearly 70% among Republicans and more than 40% among Democrats. He said there is a sense of unity in the state party on the Bevin agenda.

While there may be state unity, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul have notably avoided aligning too closely with Republican nominee Donald Trump's campaign. On this, Jennings cited a statement by McConnell that there is a "binary choice" for president and if one doesn't like Hillary Clinton than that choice is Trump. He predicts Paul will focus on his own race and core platform issues. -- When it comes to "binary choice" the Libertarian and Independent parties tend to do well at Fancy Farm (notably Gatewood Galbraith). Jennings said while this may be true, he feels Trump is likely to be Kentucky's pick for president despite some recent trouble in national polling.

Fugate adds that Kentuckians are drawn to outsiders, giving Bevin's rise to Governor as an example, in the context of Trump's appeal in the commonwealth.

Jennings said for those considering whether or not they plan on attending to remember that it's a church fundraiser for St. Jerome Catholic Church and encourages people to go out to support those who make Fancy Farm possible each year.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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