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Updates From Fancy Farm: Hot Weather, Barbecue And Politics

Ryland Barton
Kentucky Public Radio

Updated 6:06 PM (Eastern)

At this year’s Fancy Farm picnic, Kentucky politicians tried to sandbag their opponents by tying them to national issues.

Republicans warned that Democrats would bring “sanctuary cities” to Kentucky and accused them of being “socialists.”

Meanwhile Democrats accused Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of supporting Russian interests while a crowd of hecklers chanted “Moscow Mitch” repeatedly during the event.

McConnell accused his detractors of wanting to “turn America into a socialist country.”

“Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are never going to let that happen. That’s why I call myself the Grim Reaper,” McConnell said. “I’m killing their socialist agenda. But the first step in fighting those liberal schemes happens right here in Kentucky this year. We need to reelect Gov. Bevin.”

McConnell is running for reelection next year, but the main event of this year’s political contests is Gov. Matt Bevin’s attempt to become the first two-term Republican governor in Kentucky history.

Bevin repeated the old union refrain “which side are you on” to rhetorically ask the audience where they stand on issues.

“Are you on the side of sanctuary cities? Or are you on the side of protecting the rule of law and securing our borders? Which side are you on?” Bevin said.

“Are you on the side of life? Or are you on the side of those who would take lives and profit from the blood money associated with it?”

Attorney General Andy Beshear picked up on Bevin’s recurring metaphor that he’s shoveling manure that has built up in Frankfort.

“While you’re more show pony than work horse, you’ve left us a lot of manure. And the only thing we’re shoveling out of Frankfort this fall is you, right out of town,” Beshear said.

Beshear’s running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, called Bevin the “Christian Laettner of Kentucky politics,” referring to the infamous former Duke basketball player.

“At least Christian Laetenner has a winning record,” Coleman said. “Thanks to Andy Beshear, Matt Bevin hasn’t seen too many of those.”

Bevin’s running mate, state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, accused his opponents of being part of a “dynastic Democratic political machine.”

“I wasn’t born on third base with a silver spoon in my mouth. I wasn’t groomed for this like it was some sort of birthright,” Alvarado said.

Farther down the ballot, Republican candidate for attorney general Daniel Cameron, also accused his opponent of supporting “sanctuary cities.”

“I will never allow Kentucky to be a sanctuary state, Greg Stumbo will. I will uphold our pro-life laws, Greg Stumbo will not. And I will fight the drug crisis with every part of my body and being,” Cameron said.

Stumbo made fun of Cameron’s age, 33.

“The attorney general’s office is always open to children. We love it when they come to see the office. But Daniel, we don’t let children run the thing,” Stumbo said.

Republican Congressman James Comer, who isn’t up for reelection this year, painted Democrats in stark terms.

“If you are not an illegal alien, an able-bodied welfare recipient or a man who wants to use the girl’s bathroom, then the Democrats in Washington aren’t working for you,” Comer said.

Update: 4:15 p.m. 

As promised, a raucous crowd has amassed at the Fancy Farm picnic ahead of speeches by Kentucky’s politicians and candidates for statewide office.

More than an hour before the event began, the crowd divided into two camps and began delivering competing chants. Democrats rallied around their newfound moniker for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, shouting “Moscow Mitch” and waving posters like “Bully All The Time,” a critique of Gov. Matt Bevin’s bombastic style.

Republicans chanted “four more years” in favor of Bevin’s reelection and waved signs, one of which said “Own The Libs.”

At one point, both camps united in chanting “USA.”

The Kentucky Democratic Party sold merchandise featuring the “Moscow Mitch” nickname ahead of the Fancy Farm picnic. Three teachers wore fur hats with the slogan in the 90-plus degree heat.

Christina Trosper, a social studies teacher from Knox County, said she was “dying” in the heat but it was worth the sacrifice.

“My hat is an ode to Mitch McConnell and his apparent love for all things Russia and his hate for Kentucky,” Trosper said. “Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to care about the miners and their plight and not getting paid.”

Pat Vincent, from Hopkins County, said she hoped Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear would be able to defeat Bevin in this year’s election.

“They’re filling up that stage today with the best qualified candidates we’ve had in a long time. A lot of women on that stage today. And women will make the difference and western Kentucky will carry Andy Beshear through, just like it did primary night,” Vincent said.


Credit Ryland Barton / Kentucky Public Radio
Kentucky Public Radio

Original post:

Republican politicians rallied their supporters Saturday at a breakfast ahead of the Fancy Farm political picnic as they try to build upon their historic control of Kentucky government during this year’s general election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the Graves County audience to reelect Gov. Matt Bevin, making him the first two-term Republican governor in Kentucky history.

“We’ve got them down, let’s finish them off,” McConnell said.

All of Kentucky’s statewide constitutional offices are up for reelection this year. Republicans currently control Kentucky’s offices of governor, lieutenant governor, agriculture commissioner, state auditor and treasurer. Democrats have the offices of attorney general and secretary of state.

Candidates and current officials are gathering Saturday in the rural town of Fancy Farm for an annual speaking event, where politicians give stump speeches in front of a rowdy crowd of hecklers.

This is the first time Bevin will attend the picnic since 2016, his first year in office.

Ahead of the event, Bevin told attendees of the Graves County Republican breakfast to “ignore the insanity,” saying “you don’t need to turn a family picnic into the exact opposite.”

Bevin said Kentucky Democrats are trying to avoid “nationalizing the race,” as he criticized the progressive “Green New Deal” proposal and so-called “sanctuary cities.”

“They’re embarrassed by their national party,” Bevin said. “And they refuse to repudiate them.”

Bevin is running for reelection with a low approval rating. A Morning Consult poll released last month showed him as the most unpopular governor in the country.

His opponent in this year’s race for governor is Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has sued Bevin over a variety of executive actions and bills he has signed into law.

Republican candidate for attorney general Daniel Cameron accused Beshear of being “more interested in suing the governor and the General Assembly than fighting for our law enforcement.”

McConnell also addressed criticism he has received for blocking two election security bills in the Senate. Democrats have tagged him with the nickname “Moscow Mitch” as a result and the Kentucky Democratic Party says it sold $200,000 worth of merchandise with the moniker in two days.

“I’m a pretty big target, but I’m a pretty tough guy” McConnell said. “I’ve been shot at by the best. But I’m still here. I’m ready to take them on.”

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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