Fancy Farm 2012: The Blog

08/04/2012 02:07 PM

3:45 p.m. CST In the race for an open state representative from Graves County, Democrat Kelly Whitaker offered what might have been the most substantive speech of the afternoon.

She called for “no more full-time pensions for part time lawmakers” and moving that money into the underfunded state employee pension system, winning cheers from the state workers in the crowd. And she said she wants to see the law changed so that lawmakers shouldn’t get paid for special sessions called after lawmakers fail to get their work done during regular sessions.

“If you don’t do the work, you don’t get paid. It’s a very simple notion people in the Purchase understand,” she said. Whitaker also positioned herself as a conservative Democrat who is “pro-family and pro-life,” has a concealed carry permit and fought “the bureaucrats in Frankfort” as a Graves County School Board member who opposed a state plan to merge two local schools.

Her Republican opponent, Richard Heath, gave more of a biographical speech. His platform for Kentucky was more general than Whitaker’s. “All we have to do is look at the states around us that are out performing us like Tennessee,” Heath said.

The high point in his speech came with an analogy that if the University of Kentucky basketball program was being run the way government is, Kentuckians would be clambering for coach firings and new recruits.

“We need to change some ballplayers in Washington and in Frankfort and put together a winning team,” he said.

3:22 p.m. CST: The 1st state Senate district — the open seat to replace Sen. Kin Winters — is supposed to be the most competitive race in that chamber this fall. But neither candidate offered a memorable speech.

Democrat Carroll Hubbard started his remarks the way he dealt with constituents as a congressman for 17 years before going to prison as a result of the House Banking scandal. He offered his congratulations to Comer, the emcee, and condolences to the late archbishop from the area.

Then he named off the three men — and their grandfathers — who first took him around to introduce him to voters during his first run for the state Senate in the late 1960s.

Overall, he said he is pro-life and wants to work with Gov. Beshear to bring jobs to West Kentucky.

Republican Stan Humphries, the Trigg County judge-executive, immediately countered Hubbard’s claims at previous events that he didn’t know much about the counties in the district west of Trigg County.

“Mr. Hubbard I do know where Graves County is,” he said. “I know where the problems are. I know how to fix ‘em.”

Of the members of the dwindling crowd, Humphries’ contingent was more organized, with a big section of supporters sporting red “Humphries for senate” shirts and holding signs.

He ended with one of the most overt efforts of the day to link a Kentucky legislative race to national politics. “If you want to send a clear message to Barack Obama, elect me, Stan Humphries, to the Kentucky state Senate,” he said.

*3:15 p.m. CST: *Retiring state Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray, gave his final Fancy Farm speech as the senator from the area. He’s retiring and urged voters to come to the polls in November, echoing the secretary of state’s earlier speech.

Winters, one of the nicest and most soft-spoken lawmakers in Frankfort, urged voters to “elect those who we feel will be the best for us.”

3:09 p.m. CST: Republican House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover took the podium to some cheers of “Speaker, Speaker.”

He offered a few one-liners (He said he asked organizers: “Is there going to be a ribbon cutting ceremony at Fancy Farm?” After the answer was no, “I knew Jerry Abramson wouldn’t be here.” and And if the governor was seeking jobs, all he had to do was seek out state Rep. Rocky Adkins. “He’s giving away jobs down there at the prison like it’s Christmas candy,” Hoover said of the Elliott County representative.)

Then he got into the issues that fired up Republicans and Democrats, mentioning the nearly $30 billion in unfunded liability in the state employee pension system.

“The speaker said it’s not really that big of a problem — that it’s over-exagerated,” Hoover said. If we don’t change the direction of our pension system, “it will break our state,” he added.

He said the state can’t afford the added enrollees to Medicaid as required by the U.S. Affordable Care Act. And he criticized House Democrats for not calling up for a vote an informed consent bill.

“What happened this past session with the Democratic leadership in the House is an embarrassment to the commonwealth of Kentucky,” he said citing a report by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky which claimed Democrats broke a promise to call that bill. “It’s time to build a new house in Kentucky,” he said.

All the while, Democrats chanted, “Not for sale.”

3:04 p.m. CST: Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who decided Friday to take the podium, went the non-partisan route in her remarks, as expected.

“While I am so proud to be a Democrat and I carry my Democratic values with me every day, I am so proud to serve as your secretary of state,” she said, setting the tone for her speech that was heavy on civics and her resume and light on politics.

“I come to Western Kentucky asking you to get out the votes. In the Kentucky primary we had a turnout of 14 percent. We must do better,” she said.

2:58 p.m. CST: Libertarian Ken Moellman didn’t get to talk last year when he ran for state treasurer. But he got his time at the podium stumping for Libertarian presidential candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

The crowd was mostly quiet during his speech. “Osama is dead, bring the troops home,” he said — which got some claps from both sides. Republicans cheered when Moellman said “Obama can’t win Kentucky.”

And he said libertarians are opposing those who want to tax soda and ban smoking in public places.

“You smoking ban nannies — go away,” he said.

“You too,” someone from the Democratic side yelled.

2:50 p.m. CST: Sen. McConnell has left. And House Speaker Greg Stumbo is offering the Democrats’ first rebuttal, noting McConnell’s departure.

“If you can’t stand the heat, you better get out of the kitchen,” Stumbo said — then he added that it’s good to see folks who come to West Kentucky once a year, “like Ed Whitfield,” the Republican congressman who lists his address in Hopkinsville as the house under his father’s name.

And as for the Republicans’ highest-profile absent official, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Stumbo said apparently tea and barbecue don’t mix.

The one-liners are flying.

Stumbo said Senate President David Williams wasn’t there because it was free admission night at the casino.

And Stumbo defended Gov. Steve Beshear, who is on an economic development trip to Germany, while slamming Romney. “He’s over in Europe trying to bring back jobs that Mitt Romney exported over there,” he said.

*2:45 p.m. CST: *U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, opened by saying “four years ago, Barack Obama promised to change America.”

Whitfield ticked off a litany of economic numbers such as the unemployment rate and national debt, which got the crowd fired up on both sides.

Then Whitfield talked about the Obama administration’s immigration policies and environmental regulations aimed at the coal industry. “You cannot build another coal-fired power plant in America because of Barack Obama,” Whitfield said. And he offered the first Solyndra reference of the afternoon.

“It’s time to send Mitt Romney to the White House and it’s time to send Barack Obama back to Chicago to be a community organizer,” he said as organizers prepared the hook music.

It was slightly more politically relevant speech than what Whitfield gave in 2011, which was a four-minute anecdote with a weak punchline.

2:38 p.m. CST: Charles Hatchett, the Democratic candidate for the 1st congressional district, opens with a story about a chick in an egg that must choose between being a Democrat and Republican. There was a Tim Tebow reference. And apparently the moral of the story was that the little chicken didn’t look up. (I’m not sure where he was going with it.)

The Republicans in the crowd chanted “Whitfield” and “boring” and the Democrats looked bemused. Hatchett announced he would be “pro-life” and “protect our seniors” by not reducing Medicare or Social Security benefits and “will be against same-sex marriage.”

“We’ll also be for the right to bear arms but we’ll send murderers off to meet Jesus,” he added. Again, he is the Democratic candidate against Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville.

2:31 p.m. CST: McConnell basically repeated the guts of his speech to Republicans from the GOP breakfast earlier in the day.

The biggest crowd reactions came from McConnell’s references to “Obamacare.” Republicans cheered loudly to the senator’s call for repealing it while Democrats booed. And Democrats cheered at his first reference to the president’s push for the Affordable Care Act, while Republicans booed.

*2:26 p.m. CST: *Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell takes the stage to a mix of cheers and boos.

“Are there any big name Democrats here?” he said, nodding to House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Secretary of State Alison Grimes — the highest ranking Democratic officials on the stage.

McConnell then asked: Why aren’t the others here?

“Democrats vote uncommitted,” he said, referencing the May Democratic presidential primary results in Kentucky in which President Barack Obama received 58 percent of the vote compared to 42 percent who were “uncommitted” statewide.

“I’ve never met Mr. Uncommitted. But I’ll tell you this: Mr. Uncommitted walks on water in Graves County because he got 65 percent of the vote here.”

2:24 p.m. CST: Emcee James Comer, the Republican Agriculture Commissioner, opens it up with a straight-forward non-partisan introduction before thanking the speakers who showed up.

“It’s a political prerequisite to show up at Fancy Farm,” he said as a not-so subtle shot at the Democratic statewide officials who skipped the picnic (Gov. Steve Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, Attorney General Jack Conway, Auditor Adam Edelen and Treasurer Todd Hollenbach.)

*2:20 p.m. CST: *And the political speaking at Fancy Farm is off. Co-organizer Mark Wilson called for a tribute to the late Gatewood Galbraith, who just last year was on stage as an independent candidate for governor. He passed away in January. And the bipartisan crowd gave him a rousing applause in tribute.

And Wilson warned the speakers what happens if the speakers go over their time limits — the University of Indiana fight song. “Who wants to hear the Indiana Hoosiers’ fight song?” Wilson said. “I didn’t think so.”

After the opening ceremony of the singing of My Old Kentucky Home and the national anthem, the speakers are up …


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