5:30 pm: Even though there aren’t any major elections this year to stoke the political flames, Kentucky politicians had plenty of rhetoric to hurl at each other at the annual Fancy Farm picnic.
Bobby Richardson, a former Democratic speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives, emceed the event and encouraged the speakers and crowd to have a “civil afternoon.” But he still took his turn at landing verbal punches at the participants.
Richardson told his former University of Kentucky law school classmate Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the two had much in common.
“We both had a program from a chief executive officer that we had to try to implement…and they didn’t know anything about governing,” Richardson said of McConnell’s relationship with Trump, who has largely left McConnell responsible for the White House’s failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Where we diverge is this: Gov. Brown paid attention to me,” Richardson added.
Republicans continued to take a victory lap in the wake of major electoral victories last November.
This year’s Fancy Farm marked the first time a Republican House Speaker had spoken at the event—Jeff Hoover was elected to the position after the GOP took control of the chamber earlier this year.
“Elections have consequences,” Hoover said. “Kentucky is a better state today than it was one year ago. Because we’re moving Kentucky in a different direction.”
Republicans touted their surge in voter registration across the state in recent years and the fact that the state Democratic Party only has about $8,000 in its coffers.
U.S. Rep. James Comer, a Republican representing the 1st Congressional district, said the difference between Republicans and Democrats across the country “has never been greater” when it comes to the economy.
“I am so happy that we finally have a leader who understands these principles,” Comer said. “And I am so proud to have a close working relationship with that leader, President Donald J. Trump.”
Democrats still have about 82,000 more registered voters in the 1st Congressional district—the westernmost part of Kentucky—yet the region overwhelmingly voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats were still represented in the audience at the Fancy Farm picnic, though the party only had two of the ten speakers at the event.
Attorney General Andy Beshear attacked Gov. Matt Bevin for not releasing his tax returns and for using social media to lash out at his political opponents.
“He’d be here today but he is really busy making Facebook videos that attack Baptist preachers, teachers, judges, legislators, the press and let’s face it whoever angered him over his Cocoa Puffs this morning,” Beshear said, before releasing copies of his most recent tax return to the press.
1:00 pm: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a surprise appearance at a Republican event Saturday morning ahead of the Fancy Farm picnic this afternoon.
McConnell initially expected to be absent because he had delayed the Senate’s August recess in order to pass a bill to repeal Obamacare. But U.S. senators and representatives headed home after the effort’s failure last week.
“I choose not to dwell on situations where we come up a little bit short,” McConnell told a crowd of Republicans at Graves County High School.
“Even on the night when we came up one vote short of our dream to repeal and replace Obamacare, here’s the first thing I thought about: feel better, Hillary Clinton could be president.”
McConnell led the effort to pass some form of a bill that would repeal some elements of the Affordable Care Act. Several versions of the legislation were considered and a final vote failed to get a majority of votes after three Senate Republicans voted against it.
Now McConnell says he’s willing to consider a proposal that would bring support from Democrats as long as they have “real reforms,” he said.
This is the first Fancy Farm in which Kentucky Republicans have control of both state legislative chambers and the governor’s office.
After wresting control of the state House of Representatives from Democrats for the first time in 95 years last November, Republicans passed a flurry of conservative legislation including a “right-to-work” law, a ban on abortions after the 19th week in pregnancy and repeal of the prevailing wage on state construction projects.
Only two Democrats will speak at the annual charity event in which politicians make stump speeches and hurl insults at their opponents in front of a rowdy crowd.
U.S. Rep. James Comer, a Republican representing the 1st Congressional district, got started with the taunts at the breakfast event, saying Democrats would need “oxygen tanks and a morphine pump” to make it through the event.
St. Jerome’s Catholic Church has hosted the Fancy Farm Picnic since its inception in the 1880s. Each year, volunteers barbecue several tons of pork and mutton to sell to more than 10,000 attendees.
The event will be broadcast live on KET at 3 pm Eastern Time, 2 pm Central Time.
- State Sen. Stan Humphries, Republican
- State Rep. Richard Heath, Republican
- U.S. Rep. James Comer, Republican
- House Speaker Jeff Hoover, Republican
- House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, Democrat
- Attorney General Andy Beshear, Democrat
- Agriculture Commission Ryan Quarles, Republican
- State Auditor Mike Harmon, Republican
- Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark
This story will be updated.