Bevin's big debut; Grimes and McConnell shake (2014 Fancy Farm Begins One Year Early, The Blog)

08/03/2013 02:04 PM

4:15 p.m. CST: Quite a debut for Bevin

Fancy Farm is a tough place to make a debut speech in front of a non-friendly crowd. Someone forgot to tell Matt Bevin that.

The primary challenger to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell went right after McConnell.

“I don’t intend to run to the right of Mitch McConnell, I don’t intend to run to the left of Mitch McConnell. I intend to run right over the top of Mitch McConnell and into the United States Senate,” he said to wrap up his speech.

He made light of McConnell’s early departure from the stage before Bevin spoke, saying the senator “amazingly disappeared.”

“It’s like a 30-year flashback. Instead of ‘Where’s Dee?’ It’s ‘Where’s Mitch?’” Bevin said referring to McConnell’s theme that helped him defeat Sen. Walter “Dee” Huddleston in the 1984 election.

As Republicans in the crowd with “Team Mitch” shirts filed out before and during Bevin’s speech, Bevin said it was just that McConnell “doesn’t want people to hear that they have a choice.”

And he urged McConnell to stand with Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who has called for holding up the budget until the Affordable Care Act is de-funded.

“Stand with Senator Mike Lee,” Bevin said. “Be a man.”

*4:00 p.m. CST: Marksberry’s comic relief *

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ed Marksberry wrapped up the picnic as the final speaker and aimed for the comic approach.

“A lot of people want to call Mitch McConnell the turtle man. But that is disrespectful to the real Turtle Man we have here in Kentucky,” he said.

3:48 p.m. CST: Did Comer announce for governor?

At the end of his speech, Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer offered about the closest thing to an announcement of candidacy without uttering the words “I am running for governor.”

Comer said with the 2014 race going into the 2015 race for an open seat for governor, he said he didn’t expect to have time to take much of a vacation any time soon.

“I promise you that we’re going to bring bold new ideas … We’re going to make Kentucky competitive.”

After the speech, Comer denied that it was a declaration of candidacy. He repeated what he said to Pure Politics earlier in the day — that he is considering the race but not prepared to announce.

3:05 p.m. CST: Grimes greets McConnell
After addressing the Fancy Farm crowd, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes walked over to shake Mitch McConnell’s hand and give a quick hug to Elaine Chao. Chao and McConnell then left the stage.

Grimes started with a self-depreciating joke that former U.S. Senator Wendell Ford suggested she could cut 2 minutes off her speech by saying “I” instead of “Alison Lundergan Grimes” as she has been known to do.

“But come January 2015, you can call me ‘Senator,’” she added with a smile, before launching into her theme against McConnell. Then she welcomed Matt Bevin as the 2014 Republican nominee. “And Mitch McConnell is here too.”

“As long as he remains in Washington, ‘D.C.’ will stand for dysfunctional capital,” she said. “It seems our senior senator only knows the meaning of one word: ‘Stop.’”

Much of the rest of her speech was the standard stump speech she had given all week.

“It’s time we have a United States senator that unites all of Kentucky,” she said. “I will not forget who I represent and that is you so that every Kentucky women get equal pay for equal work … I will fight to keep jobs here and not send them overseas.”

2:50 p.m. CST:
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, used some of the material from his last three Fancy Farm speeches, bashing President Obama for his energy policy, funding for Solyndra and the Affordable Care Act.

Whitfield also has begun criticizing “Obamacare” for being in the interest of big insurance companies and big pharmaceutical companies.

“He didn’t tell the American people the pharmaceutical companies spent $50 million dollars buying advertising around the country? No,” he said.

2:43 p.m. CST: McConnell says it’s a national choice
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell leads off his speech by going after Alison Lundergan Grimes’ father, Jerry Lundergan, for giving to Anthony Weiner’s New York mayoral campaign.

It’s almost impossible to hear McConnell amid the cheering from Democrats (“Go Grimes Go”) and the cheering from Republicans to lines like “Just as I predicted Obamacare is a disaster for America.”

“We stand up to their war on coal,” McConnell continued. “As long as I’m in the Senate, Kentucky will have a voice instead of San Francisco and Martha’s Vineyard.”

Democrats in the crowd held up green sock puppets in the form of turtles as a slam at McConnell.

“Here’s the choice: Is the Senate going to be run for a Nevada yes-man for Barack Obama who believes coal makes you sick or the guy you’re looking at,” McConnell said.

And he ended it with a simple: “It’s going to be a great campaign, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

2:34 p.m. CST: It’s on
The crowd was largely polite to the local legislators, Sen. Stan Humphries and Rep. Richard Heath, two freshmen Republicans in their respective chambers. Humphries spoke about the 2013 General Assembly and Heat started discussing Graves County.

Then Heath mentioned “President Obama’s war on coal” and all the gloves came off. Both sides of the crowd erupted in a mix of boos and cheers so loud I couldn’t hear what else Heath said.

2:18 p.m. CST:

Perhaps the most energized, organized (in terms of t-shirts and signs) and sizable crowds in recent Fancy Farms packed under the aluminum roof of the speaking pavilion.

Before the speaking even began the Democratic (pro-Alison Lundergan Grimes) half of the crowd traded chants with the Republican (pro-Mitch McConnell portion of the crowd clad in red shirts). When the Democrats would chant “Go Alison,” the Republicans would say, “Home.” When the Republicans chanted “Team Mitch,” the Democrats responded with “Team Switch.”

Father Darrell Venters of St. Jerome’s Parish, which hosts the picnic as a fundraiser, set the tone during his invocation. He blessed the politicians with, among other things, “the ability to work together in harmony even when there is honest disagreement.”

But the crowd clearly expects disagreement today. Emcee Ferrell Wellman, former reporter and host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky,” called the picnic “the core of the American political universe today.”

And all this for 2013 — an off year for Kentucky elections.

“Doesn’t seem like an off-year to me,” organizer Mark Wilson said.

Correction: An earlier version of the blog misstated what Richard Heath said that prompted yelling from Democrats. He didn’t mention “right to work.”

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