Lots of question marks and no-shows for Democratic officials at Fancy Farm

07/29/2012 10:19 PM

With nothing to lose — but apparently figuring there’s little to gain — most of Kentucky’s statewide Democratic officials are either passing on Saturday’s political speaking event at the annual Fancy Farm picnic or making their appearances game-time decisions.

Two Democrats — Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Auditor Adam Edelen — are hosting events near Fancy Farm in the days before the annual picnic. Still, neither has committed to accepting invitations to speak as of Sunday night.

Grimes is holding a labor luncheon at noon CST on Friday. It will be in Paducah at the Whaler’s Catch restaurant just 28 miles and 26 hours from the political speaking event. Edelen is co-hosting a skeet shoot called “Clays for Kids” with Democratic state Rep. Will Coursey at the Calvert City gun club on Thursday.

Edelen said in an interview Friday that he will speak to Democrats at one of their pre-Fancy Farm functions but won’t take the podium at the picnic. He said he didn’t know why voters would want to hear the state’s taxpayer watchdog weigh in on the presidential race.

And Edelen and Grimes are not alone. Attorney General Jack Conway also hasn’t given Fancy Farm organizers an answer about his intentions for Saturday, according to a list of speakers at the event sent to the media by organizer Mark Wilson.

Gov. Steve Beshear won’t be back from his economic development trip to France and Germany. Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson had a family event come up so he’s passing as well.

State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach is going to the picnic at St. Jerome Catholic Church. But he has taken the unusual approach for a politician — he’s turning away his chance at the microphone.

That leaves House Speaker Greg Stumbo as the highest ranking confirmed Democrat at the picnic.

Why the sudden shyness from Democratic officials? No statewide office is on the ballot this year. And the presidential race is hardly competitive in Kentucky with Republican Mitt Romney expected to win the state and its eight electoral college votes.

President Barack Obama has proven to be unpopular enough even among Democrats that he garnered 58 percent of the vote in the May primary compared to 42 percent for uncommitted.

Edelen, in fact, was among more than a dozen politicians who spoke out against the policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Obama at a June rally in Frankfort in favor of the coal industry.

Kentucky Republicans, meanwhile, are once again sending their biggest name to Fancy Farm. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has committed to speak and wave Romney’s banner at the event. McConnell seems to relish the Fancy Farm atmosphere of raucous crowds and speeches that require clever barbs. Plus, McConnell rarely misses a chance to publicly criticize Obama.

McConnell’s colleague, Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, however, opted to skip the event. State House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover will speak to counter Stumbo. And the only other GOP statewide-elected official besides the two U.S. Senators is Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is serving as the event’s emcee.

- Political report Nick Storm contributed to this report.


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