The only argument that came out of the Democratic commissioner of agriculture candidate forum was whether the post of auditor is the second most important elected office in the state – or whether the Ag Commissioner is. That “argument” was between candidate for auditor Adam Edelen and candidate for ag commissioner Stewart Gritton. It was a friendly one at that.
Edelen and four Dems who will vie in the May primary to face either James Comer or Rob Rothenburger (see our story on these candidates at GOP candidates for Ag Com'r), were in Murray on Monday evening speaking to a small group of Democrats at Pagliai’s.
Edelen, who’s unopposed in the primary, announced that his campaign has raised $400,000. Neither of his potential rivals in the GOP primary – John Kemper or Addia Wuchner have raised a tenth of that amount. Edelen isn’t letting up visiting the Purchase – he plans to come back often and “run his opponents up and down the road to West Kentucky.”
Cathy Jo Stubblefield, state Democratic committeewoman hosted four of the five Democratic candidates for commissioner of agriculture. Each spoke briefly.
Bob Farmer is no relation of present ag commissioner Richie Farmer. He said he’s never met Commissioner Farmer and he’s married to the same woman for forty years – a reference to the news that Commissioner Farmer’s wife had filed for divorce recently. Bob Farmer is not a farmer – he’s the spokesman for the Farmer’s Almanac magazine. He brought copies to share. Farmer is a marketing consultant, which he says makes him the right person to be the chief marketing agent for Kentucky agriculture.
Stewart Gritton said he is the “real farmer” in the race. Born and raised on a dairy farm, Gritton made his living in agriculture for twenty years. When he lost his crop in a draught, he got a job in the Department of Agriculture. He spent years in the agency and believes that the combination of his hands on experience as a farmer and working in the department makes him the right man for the job.
John Lackey, a former state senator from Richmond and an ordained Christian Church/Disciples of Christ minister, is an attorney who farms. Lackey was the most partisan of the group. Calling himself a yellow dog Democrat, he said he agreed with President Obama and Democrats should stand up and support his policies.
“Shout out and tell them you’re not afraid to be a Democrat.” He told the crowd, receiving the only spontaneous applause of the evening.
B. D. Wilson was county judge of Montgomery County for fourteen years. Prior to running for office, he spent 25 years in the retail clothing business. He later went to work for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and now lives in Frankfort. Wilson said when he became judge, Montgomery County had an unemployment rate of 22%. When he left office, the rate had dropped to 6%. Wilson touted his marketing skills and experience in business and government as a reason to vote for him.
One candidate, David Williams of Glasgow, did not make the event.
When asked their position on federal subsidies for farmers, each candidate was (obviously) in favor of the subsidies. Stewart Gritton said the Commissioner of Agriculture needed to lobby for the subsidies.
When asked if the present commissioner, Richie Farmer, had been a lobbyist for Kentucky farmers, all candidates declined to criticize him.
John Lackey said that, while he favors the subsidies, that the playing field needs to be leveled. Large farmers get the lion’s share of subsidies. Small farmers, who need the money to help their children further their educations, are shut out.
The take away from the commissioner of agriculture forum was that the candidates are one and all nice guys. Showing up at the same events over and over, they have developed the candidate camaraderie that happens when candidates are on the same trail. They know each other’s jokes and punch lines. They are loathe to criticize their primary opponents, choosing instead to stress their qualifications for the office.
A refreshing change from the usual push-pull of modern politics.