(Paducah KY - August 1, 2013) - The ever puckish McCracken County Judge Van Newberry kicked off an evening of Democratic jocularity when he instructed over two hundred Democrats to "hug someone you've never hugged before."
And they did it.
Gathered in Paducah for the 8th Annual Alben Barkley "Burgoo and Bluegrass" Dinner, Jackson Purchase Dems eagerly awaited the appearance of their newest wunderkid Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The warm up acts for the main attraction were Grimes' fellow constitutional officers, the new generation of elected Democrats in the statehouse.
Lead off batter was Kentucky State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach who delivered his usual news of the day red meat appetizer.
Launching into an attack on Senator Mitch McConnell that will soon be familiar everywhere, Hollenbach called McConnell an "invasive species", comparing the Alabama born Senator to kudzu. He told the crowd that McConnell's public salary works out to $500 a day. His fundraising works out to $5000 a day from special interests.
"Who" he asked. "Do you think he is working for?"
Following Hollenbach, State Auditor Adam Edelen leapt on the stage wearing blue jeans and oxford cloth shirt. Edelen was fresh from a skeet shoot that he co-sponsors with Marshall County Rep. Will Coursey. Edelen said the event raised over $10,000 for charity.
Edelen gave an impassioned defense of the Democratic Party and told the crowd that lowering taxes the way the GOP advocates means raising tuition 150% on college students and that is a "tax on hope."
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway returned to themes he brought to the Calloway County Dinner earlier in the summer. He touted his accomplishments fighting cybercrime, elder abuse and child pornography.
Conway compared Republican infighting to a "re-enactment of the Hatfield and the McCoys."
The evening's star, Alison Lundergan Grimes, entered the Walker Place ballroom holding the arm of her grandmother, Elsie Case, to a standing ovation. Case and Grimes' other grandmother, Thelma Lundergan McHugh, who passed away in June 2013, were key in Grimes' win as secretary of state.
As her grandmother beamed from a chair next to the podium, Grimes shared her story of growing up as the middle child of five girls (all whose names begin with "A"). She said she not only learned to fight with her sisters, but learned "compromise and common ground" working with them toward common goals.
Washington, according to Grimes is suffering the "disease of dysfunction" and Mitch McConnell stands in the center of it. She repeatedly referred to McConnell's thirty years in office, a theme that will be repeated over and over as the long campaign progresses.
GOP, according to the 34 year old Democratic challenger, should stand for "Gridlock, Obstruction and Partisanship."