Republicans unload on Jim Gray, absent Democrats at Fancy Farm

08/06/2016 08:36 PM

FANCY FARM — A thin Democratic bench caught the brunt of an energized Republican Party’s speakers at the annual political speaking event sponsored by St. Jerome’s Catholic Church.

With the state’s lone statewide elected officials, Attorney General Andy Beshear and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, skipping the stage on Saturday the GOP sought to cast Democrats as cowards and tie them to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

In addition to the absence of Grimes and Beshear, no member of House Democratic leadership took the stage as the once powerful Democratic Party again assumes the defensive as Republicans try and wrestle away majority control of the lower chamber.

If Republicans can take the state House in November it would mark the first time in nearly 100 years the Democratic Party has not been in the Majority, and for some in the GOP a lonely set of chairs at the speaking venue was their ideal future for the opposing party.

“Some folks were asking me earlier, ‘Has the House already flipped,” state Sen. Stan Humphries told the partisan crowd at Fancy Farm.

Throughout the weekend the point would be raised by Republicans that they now control the state Senate and the Governor’s Mansion — meaning only one legislative body is keeping them from enacting their agenda.

Gov. Matt Bevin, R-Kentucky, once again attempted to assume the role of uniter offering the Pledge of Allegiance from the podium, and he played chief critic of Democrats.

“Democrats aren’t just missing on this stage,” Bevin said Saturday. “They’re missing in Frankfort – they’re missing in action. And you know what else is missing? Money in your pension systems … Jobs in Kentucky are missing.”

As a candidate for Governor in 2015, Bevin criticized the partisan back-and-forth at Fancy Farm, which is known for raucous crowd interaction, as “literally celebrating the very worst elements of the political process — we’re celebrating our divisions.”

This year, Bevin singled out “poppa bear and baby bear,” Beshear and staged an interruption to his speech. The first year governor was approached by a uniformed officer and handed paperwork to which Bevin responded, “I think I’ve just been served.”

“I just got sued by the Attorney General,” Bevin said. “Apparently I’m not allowed to quote nursery rhymes or stories without his permission. Unbelievable.”

Bevin also turned his ire to absent House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

“I would say to Greg Stumbo and others who have chosen to boycott on whatever reasons they have chosen it for — if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.”

The Louisville Republican ended his remarks with a familiar refrain in recent election years, “flip the House.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also joined in on the pile-on attacking Clinton and casting Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Rand Paul for his Senate seat, as an acolyte of the Democratic presidential nominee.

McConnell rhetorically asked if Gray had been getting advice from other statewide Democrats to lay low from defending “the left wing party” who ousted their own chair person before the national convention and booed Clinton during her speech at the DNC.

“Do we want some Jim Gray bobble head in Congress rubber stamping Hillary Clinton’s war on coal jobs? No,” he cried to the divided audience.

Kentucky’s senior Senator has essentially built the GOP in the commonwealth over the past decades, and as the window opens to gain control of the state legislature he made his pitch that he remembered when “Democrats used to at least pretend they cared about working people.”

“Democrats have failed in Frankfort. Democrats have failed in Washington. Democrats have embraced the far left and have left the middle class, and Kentucky behind.”

As more members of the Republican Party took the stage they too sought out a line of attack against the absent Democrats.

Republican 1st District Congressional candidate James Comer aimed at Attorney General Beshear in his time on stage calling on the son of the former Gov. Steve Beshear to “investigate what the heck happened to the Kentucky Democratic Party.”

Mounting the stage in support of Democrats was former North Caroling U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who several Republicans joked had to be brought in from out-of-state to help.

Acting as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton, Hagan said she was “surprised by so many Republicans on stage on Saturday.

“Most of the Republicans I know have abandoned Donald Trump.”

Hagan also offered her support of Gray, one of just a few Democrats speaking at the event.

“I know the next time you’re going to be here at Fancy Farm Sen. Rand Paul will not be on stage,” she said. “And, Mitch McConnell is going to go by a name that he knows well — the minority leader.”

Speaking on behalf of Trump was state Sen. Ralph Alvarado, who just weeks ago spoke at the Republican National Convention.

Alvarado too cast Democrats as afraid of their presidential nominee, pondering how out of all the people in the commonwealth Democrats had to bring in Hagan to stump for the former Secretary of State, First Lady and U.S. Senator.

The Winchester Republican also attempted to weaken an already hobbled Clinton in Kentucky, by playing off of a perceived inauthenticity of the Democratic nominee.

“These people are incapable of telling the truth,” Alvarado said.

James Wallace spoke for Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson at the event — seeking support from Rand Paul’s camp in the election.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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