Despite a full slate of midterm election races this year, the governor’s race next year provided an undercurrent to the 2018 Fancy Farm political speeches.
Nine current officeholders and candidates spoke at the 138th annual event held at St. Jerome parish in Graves County. The western Kentucky tradition combines the bingo and barbecue of a classic church picnic with the rowdy crowds and fiery stump speeches of an old-time political rally.
KET’s Renee Shaw and Casey Parker-Bell hosted a program presenting highlights of the remarks given on Aug. 4, 2018.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles
Quarles served as emcee for the political speeches this year and called Fancy Farm the Super Bowl of Kentucky politics. The Republican said the picnic is the only the political event these days where politicians are booed more than the media.
Noting the dearth of Democrats on the stage, Quarles said western Kentucky used to be known as the Democratic Rock of Gibraltar.
“Today, the Democratic Party is still a rock,” Quarles said, “a rock stuck in the past, led by young, energetic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and socialist Bernie Sanders.”
The commissioner said now is a great time to be a Republican in the commonwealth because the GOP is making history by electing the first African American to statewide office (Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton) and the first Latino to the legislature (Sen. Ralph Alvarado). Quarles praised U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell for working to put conservative judges on the federal bench and to push for legalizing industrial hemp. Then Quarles recognized several former state agriculture commissioners in attendance, saying farming isn’t Republican or Democratic.
“Tough times have changed, but Kentucky agriculture remains strong,” Quarles said. “God, faith, and family come first, and in Kentucky agriculture, we hope to leave the world in a little bit better place than we found it.”
State Sen. Stan Humphries
Humphries represents the 1st state Senate district in far southwestern Kentucky. The Republican touted the work lawmakers did to craft a public pension reform plan, and then criticized Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear for taking that legislation to court, where the bill was declared unconstitutional by a Franklin Circuit Court judge.
“As of today, I don’t know where we are on pension reform,” Humphries said. “Maybe we will learn more about their plan on how to fix this mess.”
Humphries also praised legislation passed by the 2018 General Assembly that takes moneys the Tennessee Valley Authority pays to the state and redistributes a portion of those funds to 39 Kentucky counties in the utility’s service area. The senator said each county will receive up to $150,000 for economic development activities.
Republican majorities in the state House and Senate are working hard to provide safe schools, good jobs, and vibrant communities, according to Humphries. He said it’s important to elect conservative Republicans to continue the growth the state has experienced in the past two years.
Sen. Mitch McConnell
The Republican credited record low unemployment, thousands of new jobs, and billions in new investments to unified GOP leadership in Washington and Frankfort. As Senate Majority Leader, McConnell said he is also able to take special care of his home state. He cited his move to add a provision to the federal farm bill to legalize industrial hemp, and he noted his efforts to fund eradication of Asian carp from Kentucky waterways, support health care for coal miners, and roll back regulations enacted by President Barack Obama’s administration.
The senator also highlighted his role in keeping a U.S. Supreme Court seat open until President Donald Trump could nominate a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell said he’s now focused on confirming a second Trump nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, to the high court.
“This year I cancelled the August recess so we’ll spend even more time confirming President Trump’s judges and promoting the Trump agenda,” he said.
Then McConnell turned his attention to Democrats who he claims want to eliminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and open the nation’s borders. He encouraged voters not to be intimidated by the strong-arm tactics of Democrats.
“To these people and their allies, we have to defend what made America great again, and that’s capitalism,” said McConnell.
State Rep. Richard Heath
Heath, a Mayfield Republican, is the incumbent in the 2nd state House district, which includes Graves County and part of McCracken County. He said conservatives have been busy in Frankfort cleaning up the messes left by nearly a century of Democratic domination of state government. Jobs are now growing and wages are rising, he argued, thanks to Republican policies. He said the state cannot afford to jeopardize this progress by putting “big-government liberals” back in office.
“Republicans have successfully poured billions of extra dollars into the teachers’ pension and the state budget,” Heath said. “We have also increased classroom spending to record highs, so every child has the resources they need to succeed.”
He confirmed his pro-life stance and his support for safer schools for students. Heath concluded his remarks by saying he stands for the flag and kneels for God.
State House Candidate Charlotte Goddard
Goddard, an elementary school teacher, is the Democratic challenger in the state House District 2 race against Heath. She told the Fancy Farm crowd of her own challenges as a child, when she walked to school with holes in the soles of her shoes.
“So when struggling children walk into my classroom, I know where they’re coming from. I love these kids like they’re my own,” Goddard said. “When politicians attack education, they are attacking our children.”
The Democrat criticized how Republican leaders pushed through public pension reform earlier this year by attaching the measure to a wastewater treatment bill. She pledged to stand up for struggling families, teachers, public schools, and all children. Goddard said the concerns of voters in the district will not fall on deaf ears if she is elected.
Congressman James Comer
The Tompkinsville Republican is seeking his second term in Washington to represent Kentucky’s 1st Congressional district. He started his speech by acknowledging the statewide officeholders who took the time to attend Fancy Farm, and thanked the state’s public school teachers, who he said deserve the respect of elected officials.
In discussing the new farm bill, Comer said he wants to require able-bodied men with no dependents to work 20 hours a week in order to qualify for food stamps. But he said Democrats oppose the plan because they want the poor to remain dependent on the government. Comer said today’s Democrats are very different from the traditional Democrats that once dominated his district.
“The old Democrats in west Kentucky were conservative and they were for the working people and they had common sense,” Comer said. “The new Democrats in Washington are socialists for more welfare programs, open borders, and political correctness.”
He said those new Democrats would eliminate ICE, promote transgender bathrooms in public schools, and let more people remain on welfare.
“If you believe that able-bodied men should get a job and go get off welfare, then vote for Comer for Congress,” he said.
Congressional Candidate Paul Walker
Walker is an associate professor of English at Murray State University and the Democratic challenger in the 1st Congressional district race. He said his students inspired him to run for office. He pledged to address the needs of the district over the needs of billionaires.
“Republicans in Congress have proven to be fiscally irresponsible,” Walker said. “They use voodoo math to raise the deficit and rob the poor and give to the rich.”
The Democrat said the GOP doesn’t care that wages for the working and middle class are flat, that a third of the population struggles to meet basic needs, and that health insurance premiums are skyrocketing. He also blamed Republicans for letting President Trump enact tariffs that will hurt Kentuckians.
“With your help, we will have health care for all,” Walker said. “We will have fully funded education programs from pre-school to trade school, from community college to university… We will have good jobs and free trade deals that actually benefit us.”
State Auditor Mike Harmon
The Danville Republican made his fourth appearance at Fancy Farm and started by reiterating his motto for the Kentucky Auditor’s office: “Follow the data,” Harmon said. “We don’t target anyone, we don’t give anybody a pass, we just simply follow the data.”
He recapped the office’s recent audit of the state Administrative Office of the Courts, including a review of questionable spending practices. Harmon says his auditors work to ensure that government is efficient, effective, and ethical, and to help Kentucky counties find common-sense solutions that save money.
After joking about Democrats who were considering a run for governor, Harmon said recent Republican leadership in Frankfort has resulted in billions more going into the public pension system and education.
“Now is not the time to change course back to the open seas and risk forever being lost in an ocean of mediocrity,” Harmon said. “We must keep Kentucky sailing in the right direction towards opportunity and prosperity for all Kentuckians.”
State Attorney General Andy Beshear
Beshear is the first Democrat to announce a bid for governor in 2019. He aimed his remarks squarely at Gov. Matt Bevin and his efforts to reform public pensions and education.
“Last year, Gov. Bevin called teachers ignorant. This year he accused them of harming children,” Beshear said. “Governor, that’s not Kentucky.”
The Democrat said he and his running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, an assistant principal at Nelson County High School, are both native Kentuckians and graduates of public schools in the state. Beshear said they would prioritize education, preserve public pensions, hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the opioid epidemic, and create good-paying jobs for working families.
“We’ll restore honesty, decency, and transparency to the governor’s office. No more name calling, no more bullying, no more my-way-or-the-highway type of politics,” said Beshear. “A governor should bring us together and not divide us.”
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes
Grimes closed the event by serving up a range of jokes targeting Gov. Bevin, Sen. McConnell, former state House Speaker Jeff Hoover, Papa John’s Pizza founder John Schnatter, and even fellow Democrat Andy Beshear. She also noted her upcoming 40th birthday and the impending birth of her first child.
“Being an expectant momma, it has me… over the moon. It gives me the strength to fight not only for my son but for all of Kentucky’s children,” Grimes said. “Instead of Republicans insulting our teachers and calling them selfish thugs, it’s time all our children had leaders who will look to add revenue to our economy so we quit taking it from our kids’ education.”
Grimes also took aim at the Republican-sponsored pension and tax reform bills. She said the new tax plan, which adds a sales tax to many services and activities, will make it harder for churches, non-profit organizations, and churches to operate.
The Democrat did not disclose her plans to possibly seek higher office next year. Instead, she encouraged voters to focus on state legislative races occurring this year.
“Our work begins now, giving our all to the Democratic women, countless educators, and all of our Democrats that are running this year,” Grimes said. “They are the best hope for our kids, our future, and this commonwealth.”