FANCY FARM, Ky. — The “Kentucky Super Bowl Politics” were back in full force Saturday, Aug. 6, at the 142nd annual St. Jerome Fancy Farm in Graves County, Kentucky, as politicians traded zingers and touted their platforms. .
Saturday’s hot and humid weather was reflected in the simmering tensions between Republicans and Democrats that were evident in remarks and jabs from several speakers.
With the 2020 and 2021 Fancy Farm Picnics affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fancy Farm Picnic Political Director Steven Elder said the picnic returning to full form is an important step in returning to a feeling of normalcy
The much-watched political conference event is a big draw for St. Jerome’s annual picnic. Saturday’s talk was filled with less of the light-hearted banter the picnic is known for, as officials and candidates used the opportunity to take aim at their opponents’ platforms and campaign for future offices.
Some of the featured speakers included Kelley Paul, standing in for her husband, Senator Rand Paul, United States Senate candidate Charles Booker, Congressman James Comer, Congressional candidate Jimmy Ausbrooks, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, the Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Auditor Mike Harmon and State Rep. Savannah Maddox. Quarles, Cameron, Harmon and Maddox are running for the 2023 Republican nomination for governor.
For the second year in a row, Governor Andy Beshear, Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman, US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and US Senator Rand Paul missed the annual Fancy Farm picnic. Beshear had originally planned to be in Israel, but canceled the overseas trip to focus on flood relief efforts in eastern Kentucky. McConnell and Paul were originally scheduled to speak, but an extended Senate session and pending votes on bills kept the two in Washington DC.
Beshear’s absence was a ripe subject for mockery and criticism from Republican speakers. Treasurer Allison Ball joked that one possible strategy to get Beshear to attend the 2023 Fancy Farm picnic is to change the format to a news conference. House Speaker David Osborne (R), while congratulating Beshear for canceling his trip to Israel and staying behind to deal with the emergency response to the flooding in eastern Kentucky, said that Beshear would originally have preferred to be out of the country than at Fancy Farm.
Booker criticized Sen. Paul for missing the picnic, saying Paul was in the nation’s capital on Saturday “trying to [Kentuckians] as we speak”. Booker added that he doesn’t think Paul takes the needs of Kentuckians into account when he votes on legislation, and also called Paul a conspiracy theorist and a liar.
“As terrible a senator as he is, he’s the best clown out there,” Booker said, referring to the upcoming International Clown Week.
Booker also advocated for an improved health care system and said he would stand up for everyone, even those who disagree with his platform.
Kelley Paul, speaking on behalf of her husband, blamed President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party for high inflation rates and rising prices. Paul also spoke on the issue of transgender athletes, stating that transgender women and girls should not be allowed to compete in sports with cisgender women and girls.
“We all know that Democratic policies are killing the middle class,” Paul said, citing record inflation and high gas prices. “The economy is going down, and every American knows it.”
Paul also addressed Senator Paul’s criticism and research into Dr. Anthony Fauci, also claiming that Fauci lied about the origins of the COVID-19 virus.
When Cameron spoke on stage, a portion of the crowd began chanting Breonna Taylor’s name during Cameron’s speech. Four officers involved in the 2020 raid that ended in Taylor’s death were indicted last Thursday on federal charges by the Department of Justice. Booker started chanting Taylor’s name from the stage after Cameron’s speech.
Comer echoed many of Paul’s sentiments, including about the Democratic Party and Biden over inflation rates and rising prices and being against transgender girls and women competing with cisgender girls and women. He also championed energy independence, police funding and the security of the nation’s borders.
“The Democrats inherited the strongest economy of my adult life, and they’ve wasted so much of our hard-earned tax dollars that we now have inflation for the first time in my adult life,” Comer said.
Comer said the solution to solving the “disastrous policies of the Democrats in Washington” is to vote Republican in the general election. If re-elected, Comer said he would become chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Ausbrooks, who is challenging Comer for his seat in Congress, said that as the first openly gay candidate to appear on the general election ballot for state office, he was hurt by the transphobic rhetoric shared by several politicians during his statements. Several speakers, including state Rep. Richard Heath, Paul, Quarles and Ausbrook’s opponent, Comer, said those who are not “biologically female,” a term some speakers used to describe those who are assigned a female at birth, they should not be able to compete. women’s or girls’ sports.
“I’m glad Mrs. Paul is leaving [after her speech] because that was an insult to me and many of my friends. We are human beings. We are people,” Ausbrooks said.
Calling Beshear the “shutdown governor,” Quarles called on Beshear to close businesses, schools and churches in 2020 during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarles said he wants parents to have a say in what their children learn in schools and said he doesn’t want to pay people to “sit at home and watch Netflix and not work.”
Cameron said he is the only gubernatorial candidate to have challenged the Biden administration in court and won, and also highlighted his work to get Kentucky’s abortion ban passed.
Harmon, who was the first to declare he was running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, criticized the state’s 2020 shutdowns, saying Beshear let fear of the virus and its health impacts drive the their decisions. He also told a series of jokes titled “I might be a Beshear/Biden Democrat if…” targeting Democratic policies and talking points.
Maddox also spoke about the COVID shutdowns, stating that she was the only candidate to oppose mandates and shutdowns since the start of the pandemic. Maddox said he also opposes “red flag” laws, or laws that would allow judges to take a person’s gun away if the judge believes the person may use the gun to harm themselves harm to herself or others.
Other speakers included state Sen. Jason Howell, Heath, Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Colmon Eldridge, Ball and Secretary of State Michael Adams.
Howell and Heath thanked state emergency response officials for their work in helping western Kentucky recover from devastating tornado damage last December.
Gubernatorial candidates Eric Deters and David Cooper were in the audience, but not on the list of speakers.