The smell of mutton's in the air: What political observers expect from Fancy Farm and its various subplots this year

08/02/2016 07:30 PM

Even though presidential campaigns have captured much of the country’s political attention for several months, Kentucky’s premiere political event in far western Kentucky will have plenty of angles to watch as it kicks off this weekend.

Pure Politics sat down with Republican consultant Les Fugate, executive vice president of RunSwitch PR, and Democratic consultant Jared Smith, president of Smith Strategies, to get their perspectives on Fancy Farm, an event that informally marks the beginning of campaign season in the Bluegrass.

The most-watched race this year is between U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, a low-key race in which neither candidate has begun airing television advertising in earnest.

Paul skipped last year’s picnic as he campaigned for president, but Saturday will mark Gray’s first time on the stage, delivering a speech that will be loudly cheered and jeered by the partisan audience in attendance.

Smith said he expects the Democrat to perform well in that unique environment if he’s prepared.

“I’ve had candidates where we’ve taken them into a conference room the week of and have them practice their speech and just scream at them mercilessly, and if Jim understands that, he stays up and prepares well, he’ll be fine,” Smith said. “He’s a pro. He’s very good at business. It’s just like walking into a boardroom – stay focused, stay on message, crack a joke or two and get off stage.”

One Democrat has already said he won’t be taking the stage at Fancy Farm: Attorney General Andy Beshear, whose campaign Smith managed.

Fugate called Beshear’s decision “a mistake” since he will not be able to share his message with voters in the western portion of the state.

“When there’s a vacuum, it gets filled somehow, and (former Secretary of State) Trey (Grayson) filled the vacuum one year when Gov. Fletcher didn’t go and made some pretty big headlines questioning Gov. Fletcher’s leadership a little bit,” said Fugate, who worked as an aide to Grayson.

“I think, unfortunately, when you’re not there to be able to stand up for yourself, you allow someone to fill that vacuum,” he added.

Find out more on Fugate’s and Smith’s thoughts on Fancy Farm in the video below:


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