Republicans take plenty of swipes at depleted Democrats, Beshear challenges Bevin and others to release tax returns at Fancy Farm

08/05/2017 05:31 PM

UPDATED FANCY FARM — Kentucky Republicans delivered a blistering rebuke of their counterparts on the other side of the aisle at the 137th Fancy Farm picnic on Saturday, often tossing barbs at the two Democrats who appeared at the annual event.

And a day after telling reporters that he had outlined his concerns about a home purchase by Gov. Matt Bevin to federal authorities, Attorney General Andy Beshear continued to fan the flames of his feud with the governor by releasing his 2016 tax returns and calling on Bevin and other politicians to follow suit.

Bevin has repeatedly declined to release his tax filings, something Democrats tried to capitalize on during the 2015 gubernatorial race.

“I am challenging every constitutional officer, the speaker and the Senate president to release theirs,” Beshear said after thanking U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, for releasing his tax returns earlier this year and as spokesman Terry Sebastian passed out copies of Beshear’s 2016 returns.

“At a time where their plan for tax reform will let billionaires keep more while you and I pay more, we deserve to know if our leaders are enriching themselves. At a time when Kentucky families are struggling, unemployment is up and wages are down, are those leaders making more?”

Beshear gave the most pointed remarks on the Democratic side in his speech, mentioning Bevin, who did not attend Saturday’s event, by name numerous times from the stump.

But the GOP continually pounded Democrats for their recent political shortcomings, and their numbers on the Fancy Farm stage offered a visual reminder of their recent gains.

Seven Republicans spoke at the event compared to two on the Democratic side, twice as many as last year when Lexington Mayor Jim Gray was the only Democrat on the speaking list as he ran for U.S. Senate.

The election-free year — which precedes a cycle without a statewide race on the ballot — led to a more subdued partisan crowd by Fancy Farm standards, but the audience gathered at the picnic’s pavilion sprung to life several times as speakers took shots at targets across the political aisle.

“I’ll admit, I really didn’t think any of you all would show,” Comer said, turning to Beshear and House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins. “I mean, you really have nothing to celebrate since we were here last year. In fact, 2017 is on track to be an even worse year for Kentucky Democrats than 2016.

“Mister attorney general, I was going to make fun of the Kentucky Democrat party today, but I’m afraid that you’ll indict me for the abuse of a corpse.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held up a recent copy of the Lexington Herald-Leader, which he referred to as “that left-wing newspaper,” and read the headline of a story detailing a pair of recent reports that bruised Democrats: Sen. Julian Carroll’s audio-recorded proposition of a male photographer hoping to enroll in art school and felony theft charges against Grace Wise, the head of a Democratic super PAC called Back the Bluegrass.

“After a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week, can Kentucky Democrats recover? No,” McConnell said. “I hear they have $8,000 in the bank over in Frankfort.”

McConnell also took a shot at Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, his foe in the 2014 Senate campaign who also skipped Saturday’s event that serves as a fundraiser for St. Jerome’s Catholic Church, by referencing her refusal to say whether she voted for President Barack Obama during their race.

“Alison Lundergan Grimes, whatever happened to her? Anybody remember her?” he asked. “She finally, I must give her credit, finally last year she did say who she voted for for president. I guess she was hoping to get a job in the Hillary Clinton administration. How’d that work out?”

Party leaders in the state Senate declined to attend this year’s picnic, leaving room for leaders in the House of Representatives to give a glimpse into the 2018 elections as Democrats try to whittle the newly won GOP supermajority in the lower chamber.

House Speaker Jeff Hoover tallied legislative victories for Republicans in their first session in control of both chambers in the General Assembly and offered a prediction after the GOP won majority hold of the House for the first time in nearly a century.

“I know that’s disappointing to my Democratic friends over here to hear that,” Hoover, R-Jamestown, said after noting that he is the first Republican House speaker to take the Fancy Farm stage in the event’s history.

“But the thing is, I won’t be the last one to stand here at Fancy Farm as a Republican speaker,” he continued. “I expect there to be a long line of Republican speakers of the House because Kentucky is now a Republican state, and western Kentucky is leading the way.”

Adkins, the House Democratic leader, defended his party’s efforts to bolster the state’s economy during his 31 years in the legislature, saying he hoped to see a surge in Democratic energy after the General Assembly passed laws like prevailing wage repeal and charter-school authorization.

“Stand with the Kentucky House Democratic caucus,” Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, shouted. “I challenge you to get off the bench and get in the game.”

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Auditor Mike Harmon, Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark, state Sen. Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, and state Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, also spoke at Saturday’s picnic, which was emceed by former Democratic House Speaker Bobby Richardson.


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