Fancy Farm turns up the heat in Kentucky political campaigns

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By Scott Wartman

The Kentucky Enquirer

Gov. Steve Beshear on Saturday at the Fancy Farm Picnic spoke about his trip to the Middle East and drew the ire of his opponents, who criticized the governor for not talking about state issues.

Beshear on Friday returned to Kentucky after he toured U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past week. He devoted his entire five-minute speech before the thousands assembled in Graves County to his experience in the past week overseas and praising the U.S. troops.

“I know in the great tradition of Fancy Farm, I know that there should be great fiery partisan political rhetoric, and quite honestly, a week ago, I was prepared to give one of those speeches,” Beshear told the crowd that responded with a mix of cheers and boos. “And I’ll tell you something. Today, my heart and mind are not with partisan politics. My heart and mind are thousands of miles away with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And my friends, there are lots of things that are more important than partisan politics, and that is one of them.”

His Republican challenger, State Senate President David Williams, and independent gubernatorial candidate Gatewood Galbraith lambasted the governor for not addressing any state issues. Williams said he appreciates the governor making the trip but questioned his sincerity.

“You know, the political season has started, and if I was Steve Beshear, I wouldn’t want to talk about my record either,” Williams said.

Galbraith scorned Beshear’s speech.

“First of all, I’m going to go away from my regular speech for just a second and tell you, Gov. Beshear, that was the worst darn speech I’ve ever heard anybody give,” Galbraith said. “For a person who’s supposed to be trying to come up with solutions to Kentucky’s problems, for you to go over there and hide behind the bodies of our young men and women of the military ... I was highly offended by it.”

Williams afterward said he thought Beshear’s trip to the Middle East was commendable but his choice to use it for a political speech was political theater and in poor taste.

“He just doesn’t want to talk about his record, and, you know, I think the people of this state will not stand for his continued avoidance of any discussion of his record or any justification of him not having an agenda,” Williams said.

Beshear justified his topic after the picnic. He said he told the troops he would honor them at Fancy Farm.

“That was an honor for me,” Beshear said. “If other people didn’t like it, that’s their problem. They can say what they want. I was on the ground on those streets of Afghanistan and Iraq. I know what they’re going through. Today is not a time, for me, for partisan politics.”

Other state candidates also duked it out at the podium on Saturday.

Bill Johnson, GOP candidate for secretary of state, pledged to require a picture identification and address before someone could vote.

“With Bill Johnson as secretary of state, the policy will be: No address, no vote,” Johnson said. “An open-door policy to election fraud is unacceptable. Second, today, you need a picture ID to buy prescription drugs. You need an ID to buy a pack of cigarettes. Shouldn’t the security of election laws be at least to the level to buy a pack of cigarettes?”

Johnson is using misinformation and scare tactics, said Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic secretary of state candidate.

“He’s betting against the intelligence of each and everyone of you here,” Grimes said. “He’s playing on each of you, using scare tactics based on half-truths. I see through it. You see through it, and I have faith Kentucky families across the commonwealth will see through it.”