Down ballot candidates raise the heat at Fancy Farm

Published 11:31 am Thursday, August 10, 2023


Kentucky Lantern

Kentucky Democrats and Republicans running for statewide offices echoed the tops of their tickets while trading jeers and heckles Saturday at the 143rd Fancy Farm Picnic.

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While the main spotlight was on gubernatorial candidates Republican Daniel Cameron and Democrat Andy Beshear, their running mates did not waste the opportunity to lodge a few complaints of their own.

State Sen. Robby Mills, a Republican from Henderson who spoke first after a coin toss, repeated GOP lawmakers’ frequent criticisms of Beshear for vetoing Republican legislation, taking what they say is undeserved credit for the results of Republican policies, and not working with the General Assembly.

Mills brought up Beshear’s veto of a controversial anti-transgender law, which banned gender-affirming medical care for minors, and framed it as a measure intended to “protect Kentucky children from life-altering drugs and sex change surgery.”

Leading up to Fancy Farm, the Beshear campaign released an ad in which the governor denies supporting gender-reassignment surgeries for minors.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Jacequline Coleman tied Cameron to U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who was on the stage after giving a speech that jabbed at the governor’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, whom McConnell beat in a U.S. Senate race in 1996. Cameron and McConnell first met when Cameron was a student at the University of Louisville.

“I’d rather be Steve Beshear’s son than Mitch McConnell’s puppet,” said Coleman who was the first but not the last Democrat to refer to Cameron as McConnell’s puppet.

Coleman, who has a career in education, also said that Republicans are “dusting off Matt Bevin’s old playbook,” a nod to the former Republican governor’s clashes with Kentucky teachers. She then pivoted to Mills’ support of a 2018 “sewer bill,” which was a failed attempt to overhaul pensions for Kentucky state workers, including teachers.

The attorney general candidates, Republican and former United States Attorney Russell Coleman and Democratic state Rep. Pamela Stevenson, who was a lawyer and colonel in the Air Force, sparred over Stevenson’s not yet being licensed to practice law in Kentucky, although she is licensed in Indiana and said she is in the process of becoming so in Kentucky. It’s not a qualification for Kentucky’s AG.

Coleman, who is from West Kentucky, said he spent hours studying for his bar exam in the local courthouse, before proceeding to explain to Stevenson what a bar exam was. Stevenson told the crowd she would criticize that issue too “if I had to compete with my resume.”

In the state auditor race, Republican Treasurer Allison Ball touted her opposition to environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing vowing to continue to oppose it if she wins Auditor Mike Harmon’s spot in November. Ball noted the lack of Democrats elected to Kentucky’s statewide offices.

The Democratic candidate, tax attorney Kim Reeder, told the crowd that she is not a “career politician” and said her experience makes her highly qualified to hold the office.

The secretary of state race, which features incumbent Republican Michael Adams and Democrat Charles “Buddy” Wheatley, had the most prickly speeches of the day.

Wheatley, a former state representative, criticized Adams for wanting to remove Kentucky from the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC. In June, Adams said in a statement that Kentucky would explore alternatives to the program while remaining in the program for a year.

Mincing no words, Adams made several references to Wheatley being suspended while he was the Covington fire chief after consuming alcohol before operating a city vehicle.

In a frequent Republican refrain linking Beshear to Democratic President Joe Biden, Jonathan Shell, a candidate for agriculture commissioner, told the crowd that the Biden White House has been “manure” for Kentucky. Shell lodged his complaints against Beshear and never once referenced his opponent, Democrat Sierra Enlow.

After she took the stage, Enlow called Shell “a damsel in distress” and criticized him for not attending candidate forums.

The last speakers were Republican Mark Metcalf and Democrat Michael Bowman. Both are seeking to become Kentucky’s next treasurer.

Metcalf said Democrats have put “politics over profitable returns” on Kentucky pension investments before vowing that “woke will go broke” under his watch. Bowman criticized Republicans, saying the legislature has cut education funding and “destroyed” pensions.