Monday, August 3, 2015

Democrats seeking lesser offices attack Bevin while their Republican opponents attack Obama and Conway

FANCY FARM, Ky. – The focus of the political speaking at the Fancy Farm Picnic is on those holding or seeking top-ranking offices, but is also a valuable opportunity for other statewide candidates to connect with the politically minded crowd and a statewide television audience. Cheyene Miller of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications wrote this account of their speeches, in the order they were given Saturday.

Lieutenant Governor

Like her running mate, Jack Conway, state House Democratic Caucus Chair Sannie Overly of Paris focused on criticizing Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin.  She did not mention her opponent, Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green.

Overly began by saying that at the picnic, the “line for the barbecue is as long as Matt Bevin’s nose,” and said he wants to keep Kentucky workers at the current minimum wage.

She talked about being raised in Bourbon County with Kentucky values, which she says Bevin lacks. Sounding a refrain used by other Democrats, she said, “Matt Bevin isn’t from Kentucky, he’s wrong for Kentucky, and he’s lied to Kentucky.”

Overly said she had never seen anything like the Republican primary, which “had three very qualified Kentucky candidates with long histories in their community, and they went with Matt Bevin.”

Hampton made history by becoming the first black woman to speak on the stage at Fancy Farm, which she immediately referenced.

“I know for some of you I’m an anomaly, I know I’m something you haven’t seen, I’m a black conservative,” said Hampton, asking the crowd to judge her by her character and qualifications.

Like her running mate, Hampton avoided attacks and counterattacks. She spoke about her service in the Air Force and growing up in Detroit saying she “rose from the wreckage of the inner city by rejecting voices that said I was a victim.”

Hampton said that success can often depend on someone saying “you’re better than this,” and that applies to Kentucky.

Agriculture Commissioner

Democrats continued to make things personal, as agriculture-commissioner candidate Jean Marie Lawson Spann said Republican opponent Ryan Quarles has said he has six college degrees and quoted one of her friends as saying “This fella has spent so much time getting degrees that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.”

Spann called herself a proud product of public education in Kentucky, and cited her experience growing up in a farm family as one of her qualifications for the job.

Quarles implied that his opponent’s farm credentials are suspect. “Kentucky deserves a commissioner with a real farm background,” he said.

Quarles recounted his experience growing up on a farm, doing everything from working with tobacco and livestock to shoveling cow manure, a job which he says “prepared me well for Frankfort politics.”

Promising to stand up to “Obama liberals both in Washington (D.C.) and in Frankfort,” Quarles said the choice is between someone who voted for the president and someone who didn’t.

Attorney General

Democratic candidate Andy Beshear, the son of Gov. Steve Beshear, Beshear said he has consistently been ranked among the top attorneys in America and that he takes on the “big, complex cases.”

He promised to fight Marathon Oil to make sure that Kentuckians pay fair gas prices, fight child abuse and drugs, find better drug-treatment methods, and protect senior citizens from fraud.

Beshear then returned to grilling his opponent, state Sen. Whitney Westerfield of Hopkinsville, accusing him of not understanding the attorney general’s budget.

Earlier, he said politicians try to avoid put their feet in their mouths at Fancy Farm, but “We know that if my opponent puts his foot in his mouth, it’ll be clean, well-trimmed and polished.” That was a reference to a news report that Westerfield missed work to get a pedicure.

Westerfield replied, “I did have a pedicure at lunch but I’m ready to go toe-to-toe with you right now.”

Westerfield pointed out that he’s the only candidate who’s been a prosecutor, and that he has experience fighting drugs and child abuse.

Alluding to Beshear’s heavy funding from interests who stand to gain or lose at the hands of his father’s administration, Westerfield said, “The Beshears are cashing checks that should never have been written.”

Quoting the old expression that there is no education in the second kick of a mule, he said ”There’s no sense in electing another Beshear in Kentucky.”

Westerfield concluded by saying the state needs to protect religious freedom and public officials who exercise it – a reference to the three or four Kentucky county clerks who are refusing to issue any marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision for nationwide gay marriage.

Secretary of State

After sitting through jabs at her refusal to say who she voted for in the 2012 presidential election, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes wasted no time in returning the heat toward Kentucky Republicans.

Repeating McConnell’s attacks on Bevin in last year’s Senate primary, she said, “See, Mitch and I actually do agree on some things.” Grime lost to McConnell in the general election.

Grimes then fired at her opponent, Erlanger Council Member Steve Knipper, saying “The last time this office was on the ballot, the Republican who wants to be Kentucky’s chief election official … didn’t even vote.”

Rehashing Republican attack ads from last year’s Senate race, Knipper began his speech by accusing Grimes of spending half her work time running for the Senate.

“You actually have to be in office to accomplish something, and that hasn’t always been the case with Ms. Grimes,” he said.

Knipper said Democrats had attacked Bevin for having something to hide while Grimes had been away from her duties.  He then threw in his approval of Bevin, saying that he had the job experience to improve Kentucky’s economy, and that Knipper himself had the technological skills.

Auditor of Public Accounts

Republican state Rep. Mike Harmon of Danville sarcastically said that the Democratic side of the crowd would boo him even though they knew deep in their hearts that he would be a much better state auditor than incumbent Adam Edelen.

“Well, go ahead and boo, I’m a big guy, I can handle it. I won’t cry like Jack Conway,” Harmon said, referring to the tears Conway shed when explaining his decision not to appeal one of the same-sex marriage rulings that the Supreme Court upheld.

Harmon claimed Edelen switched parties in high school in hopes of being governor, and criticized Edelen for not filling out a questionnaire from Kentucky Right to Life, which endorsed Harmon.

Like his fellow Republicans, Harmon connected Kentucky Democrats to Obama, and encouraged the crowd to give Republicans power in the state capital.

Edelen spoke briefly about his office’s efforts to make a count on unprocessed rape kits to aid sexual assault victims, then about his parents, who taught him the value of hard work, education and meeting their obligations.

“Those are true family values,” he said, accusing Republicans of not being genuine in their advocacy of Christian values.

“Kicking half a million Kentuckians off the insurance rolls with a stroke of a pen is callous, it’s not Christian,” Edelen said, referring to Bevin’s plan to shut down the state health-insurance exchange and original plan to repeal Medicaid expansion.  “Maybe this side of the aisle should put down the books of Ayn Rand and pick up the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.”

Edelen said the election is a battle between “the mainstream and the extreme,” and “values that say ‘we understand we owe a little something, against the law of the jungle.”

State Treasurer

Republican candidate Allison Ball of Prestonsburg spent much of her speech differentiating herself and the other candidate with a similar name.

“I’m the good Allison,” she said in reference to Grimes. 

Ball described herself as a friend of coal and said she voted against Obama.

Finally turning to her opponent, state Rep. Rick Nelson of Middlesboro, Ball said she was the only qualified candidate due to her experience as a bankruptcy attorney, while her opponent is a retired teacher and a liberal Democrat.

Nelson said that he had never been called a liberal, and said his National Rifle Association rating “is 20 points higher than Allison’s.” He said he makes it a policy not to engage in mudslinging.

Nelson, a retired teacher, said a teacher’s life is hard has the opportunity to change lives.  He said his coal-mining family had few material possessions, but lived well with what they had.

“I believe that I have the life experience and the job experience to be your next Kentucky treasurer,” he said.

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