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Here’s what you missed at Fancy Farm

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By Shelley Byrne | The Mayfield Messenger

Although the political speeches had their usual share of zingers and one-liners, the crowds at the 138th St. Jerome Catholic Church’s Fancy Farm Picnic were loudest when candidates spoke about pension reform for state workers, including teachers.


A vocal group of protesters wearing red shirts labeled with #120Strong, including many teachers, booed and cheered candidates in turn.

“I love Fancy Farm, and I love the passion you all bring to the political process,” state Rep. Richard Heath said, looking out over the crowd.

He noted that he and the other Republicans had been very busy “cleaning up the mess of the prior 100 years of the other party’s rule.”

“But we still have more work to do,” Heath said. “Jobs are growing. Wages are climbing thanks to the policies coming out of Frankfort. Kentucky’s employment now sets at the lowest rate in 42 years.”

He blamed Democrats for what he called underfunding and lack of desire to deal with financial insolvency. Electing more Democrats would lead to financial recklessness, he said.

“With your help I plan to continue Kentucky’s unprecedented momentum,” Heath said.

Second District House candidate Charlotte Goddard enjoys a rousing reception from Democratic supporters Saturday as she told the crowd how the GOP has declared war on public education in Kentucky, including a fight against fair pension reform for teachers. Goddard, a former teacher, is a Democrat from Hickory. | The Mayfield Messenger

His opponent, Democrat Charlotte Goddard, took a different stand from her first sentence.

“Good afternoon,” Goddard said. “I am Charlotte Goddard, and I stand for Kentucky teachers.”

The comment led to the longest sustained applause of the afternoon.

Goddard said she remembers walking to school with holes in the soles of her shoes, entering the classroom with wet feet. She made it through college to become an educator, she said: “So when struggling children walk into the classroom, I know where they come from. When politicians attack public education, they are attacking our children.”

She criticized the legislative process that led to the state’s Republican-backed pension reform bill to be attached to a sewage bill. The legislation was overturned by a Franklin Circuit Court judge in June.

“I will stand for struggling families,” Goddard said. “I will stand for teachers. I will stand for public schools. I will stand up for all of our children. Your concerns have not fallen on deaf ears. I will stand as your next representative, as a representative who will listen to you.”

Her comments drew their own criticisms, including a chant of “You’re a socialist!” that came from the Republican side of the crowd.

Other political races brought comments that were just as pointed.

U.S. Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville at the 137th Fancy Farm Picnic. | TOM BERRY/The Mayfield Messenger

U.S. Rep. James Comer also began his speech, in part, by thanking teachers from across Kentucky and noting they deserve the respect of the country’s highest elected officials. He then turned to other topics.

Comer said he voted for the biggest federal tax cuts in a generation and that as a result the United States has a 4.1 gross domestic product growth rate, twice the average of the previous presidential administration.

He also talked about complaints from business owners who say they are having trouble finding qualified workers for the jobs they have available and talked about a provision he asked to have included in the House version of the U.S. Farm Bill that will require able-bodied people with no dependents at home to work at least 20 hours a week to keep federal nutrition program benefits.

“Now who would be against that, right?” he said. “Well, I can tell you who. All the Democrats in Washington.”

Comer then sought to draw a line between him and his opponent, the Democratic candidate Paul Walker, stressing that those who were for open borders and liberal political correctness should vote for Walker, but that those who believed able-bodied men should get off welfare and get a job should vote for him.

Walker countered in his speech that what was actually needed was more able-bodied men in Congress. He also stressed his connection to teachers as an English professor.

“It was my students who inspired me to run for office, but it’s the teachers who are going to make us win in November,” he said.

He said, win or lose, he’s going back to teaching.

“I will listen to you, and I won’t abandon you,” Walker said. “I will make sure your needs are heard loud and clear in Washington.”

He accused Republicans of doing “voodoo math” to come up with their economic figures, saying that one-third of the population is struggling to meet basic needs, that health insurance premiums are skyrocketing and that the current Republican presidential administration is seeking to pay farmers to help offset skyrocketing tariffs “that they let happen.”

State Sen. Stan Humphries took aim at Democrats on the speakers’ platform, saying, “It’s so good to see some of my Democratic friends this year. We were missing some of them last year, of course.” He later added of Democrats, “There’s a lot at stake, and it’s really telling that they’re only here when your vote is at stake.”

Sen. McConnell at a previous Fancy Farm gathering.

U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had similar words, saying there were two reasons to come to the Fancy Farm Picnic. One is the barbecue, he said. “And the other one is that this is the only time of the year you’ll see any Democrats in western Kentucky.”

McConnell mentioned the fight against Asian carp and his support for industrial hemp and military spending, along with the fight for President Donald Trump’s nominees, including his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. He said this year he canceled the Senate’s August recess to spend more time appointing the president’s choices and promoting his agenda.

“This country would not be better off with open borders or the elimination of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement),” McConnell said. “I never thought I would have to defend capitalism here in America, but with these people we have to defend what made America great again, and that’s capitalism.”

State Auditor Mike Harmon spoke of Attorney Gen. Andy Beshear, who has announced his Democratic candidacy for governor in 2019, and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is widely thought to be considering candidacy but has not confirmed it.

Harmon’s quips included a riff on comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck if” comedy sketch he titled “You might be a Democrat running for governor.” Lines included “If you think medical marijuana has anything to do with the secretary of state” and “If you’ve asked Siri to set a weekly reminder to sue Gov. Bevin,” targeted toward both Lundergan Grimes and Beshear.

Beshear and Lundergan Grimes, the state’s two Democratic elected officeholders, spoke last.

Andy Beshear and Jacqueline Coleman, in a screenshot from the video announcing their run for governor and lieutenant governor of Kentucky

Beshear repeated criticisms of Gov. Matt Bevin, who did not attend, leading the crowd in saying, “Governor, that’s not Kentucky.”

Beshear said he intended to prioritize public education and, along with it, respect for teachers.

“We will keep the promised retirement to you and every other public servant out there earning it,” he said. “You deserve it.”

He also expressed support for good-paying jobs, more opioid disposal programs, more drug treatment options and holding “big pharma” accountable for all the damage it has done.

“We’ll restore honesty, decency and transparency to the governor’s office,” he said, adding that if elected there would be no more name-calling and “no more my way or the highway politics.”

Alison Lundergan Grimes at a previous picnic.

Lundergan Grimes did not clear up whether she intends to run for governor, saying “2018 comes before 2019” and being vocal about support for Democratic candidates.

She did take aim at several Republicans, however. Of the governor, she said, “It’s a hot one, folks. People are sweating here today like Matt Bevin at a KEA (Kentucky Education Association) meeting.”

She also criticized Beshear, saying there had been peace talks between North and South Korea, but that Bevin and Beshear continued to be at political odds.

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