Education supporters turning their backs on Sen. McConnell. Politics and snark on the menu at the 2018 Fancy Farm Stump Speak
The Fancy Farm Political Stump Speak is unique - there is no stump and the audience on the left from the stage are Republican and those on the right are Democrat. With KET now taking up the back of the pavilion with cameras and a stage of its own, there is little room for a middle. That may be a metaphor for 2018 Kentucky politics.
Fancy Farm 2018 was the first time in many years that partisans on the Democratic side outnumbered Republicans. This year added another world turned upside down twist, the left leaning audience wore red t-shirts. It's a confusion on the red state/blue state divisions of national politics.With teachers and their supporters taken up a large chunk of the right side of the pavilion and spilling out to the sides and rear, Republican speakers saw a sea of red from the speakers' platform. It wasn't the usual Red State red though.
But that's the one of a kind Fancy Farm Picnic. It's not bragging to say the event which the Guinness Book of World Records once dubbed the largest one day picnic in the world. Preparing tens of thousands of tons of mutton and pork barbecue for the long weekend of homecomings, concerts, lunches, dinners and bingo, the residents of Fancy Farm tie on their aprons every year and get 'er done.
A new group made its first appearance at the Stump Speak. KY 120strong, a pop up group of education, teacher, public employee advocates, came en masse to the Picnic to show their disapproval of the Republican controlled General Assembly's monkeying with their pensions. Their signs pointedly blamed Republicans for raised taxes and lowered pensions. Their ire wasn't just reserved for state GOP lawmakers. At left, teachers turned their backs on Senator McConnell and at right, they jeered First District Congressman James Comer for calling Indivisible members attending his town hall meetings fussy women.
Democrats don't have a lock on KY120strong, whose members are proudly nonpartisan. The group has 45,000 members from every one of the state's 120 counties. First time Fancy Farm KY120ers told us that they stand for education, teachers and public employees. Republican teachers from Eastern Kentucky sat with Democratic educators from Lexington for the speaking.
"It was on my bucket list to come." One said. "The food is great and people are so friendly." She vowed to come back next year.
The slings and barbs of the speakers were pure Fancy Farm red meat for supporters. Both sides scored hits. For those who missed the event, it can be viewed on the KET website.
Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles served as the 2018 speaking moderator.The job entails presiding over coin flips on who chooses to speak first and introducing the speaker. In years past, the moderator has been a manners enforcer. Quarles departed forcefully from prior moderators with his attack dog approach to the job of moderator. His opening monologue was a series of Dem bashing chomps and a few mild GOP nips. WKJ editorial: Quarles does himself no favors
Local candidates got more coverage this year than in the past. Shown at left, Heath has been in the Legislature since 2012 when he defeated Graves County School Board member Kelly Whitaker.
Heath told the crowd that "Republicans have successfully pour millions of extra dollars into teachers' pensions and the state budget"
According to Heath, "President Trump has willing partners in Rep. Comer and Senator Mitch McConnell."
Rep. Richard Heath (R-2nd District) is being challenged by teacher Charlotte Goddard, at left, a political newcomer.
Charlotte Goddard told the crowd that she loves her students and that she is running for them.
"When politicians attack education, they're attacking our children.... When KEA had a public forum, our legislators didn't show up."
Congressman James Comer (R- KY 1st Congressional District) touted his attempt to put work requirements in the Farm Bill (an effort that failed in the Senate). "The Democrats want the poor to stay poor." While Comer's playing to the left side of the aisle brought cheers, he should know that USDA SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) already has requirements for able bodied adults without children.
From USDA.Gov SNAP requires work for able bodied adults without dependent:
"While SNAP is intended to ensure that no one in our land of plenty should fear going hungry, it also reflects the importance of work and responsibility. SNAP rules require all recipients meet work requirements unless they are exempt because of age or disability or another specific reason. (Children, seniors, and those with disabilities comprise almost two-thirds of all SNAP participants.) Forty-three percent of SNAP participants live in a household with earnings.
Some of these working individuals are ABAWDs, or able-bodied adults without dependents. ABAWDs must meet special work requirements, in addition to the general work requirements, to maintain their eligibility."
Democratic candidate Murray State University professor Dr. Paul Walker said his students inspired him to run for office. He advocates returning full funding to education. Walker said the tariffs imposed by President Trump which triggered retaliatory tariffs are hurting West Kentucky. The 12.5 billion dollar farm assistance program authorized by the President isn't helping.
"They want to give us crutches after cutting off our legs."
Constitutional officers rounded out the day's speakers.
State Auditor Mike Harmon assured that his office is nonpartisan in its approach. He told the crowd that his office had recently completed an audit of the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Court. The audit questioned a lease from the son of a Kentucky Supreme Court Justice.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, at left, announced again that he is running for governor. His ongoing battle with Governor Bevin, who skipped the picnic without explanation or excuse, keeps the AG in court a great deal of his time. Beshear spoke of the battles against opioid abuse, internet child pornography and testing the backlog of rape kits.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes took plenty of jabs at Governor Bevin.
"He's the type of guy who thinks The Handmaid's Tale" is a romantic comedy."
A lot of people think he should run for president in 2020. She joked Governor Bevin is qualified to be the Republican nominee.
"He insults people constantly, tweets nonsense, cant tell the truth and won't release his tax returns."
In a tease on her future plans, Grimes addressed her long desired pregnancy and its effect on her future.
For men on either right or left who question whether a new mom can run for office, she said "... women do more than just have children." Grimes was the only speaker to mention the sales taxes passed in the most recent General Assembly session saying that St. Jerome Picnic will have a tax bill. The taxes will hurt small businesses.
In her final remarks, Grimes issued both a plea and a warning to early announcing Andy Beshear. "2018 comes before 2019." She asked the crowd to support candidates on the 2018, especially the large number of Democratic women running.