Politics

Last weekend’s Fancy Farm political speaking event signaled the beginning of the fall campaign season in Kentucky, which is shaping up to be to be a knock-down, drag out fight.

Democrats dog-piled on Gov. Matt Bevin. Bevin is struggling with low approval ratings while running for reelection. Hecklers shouted “Moscow Mitch” during the entirety of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech.

Meanwhile, Republicans accused their opponents of being “socialists” and focused on issues like immigration and abortion.

Halfway through Bevin’s speech, he brought out a blown-up copy of an invitation to a fundraising event for Democratic opponent Andy Beshear that was hosted by the owner of Kentucky’s only abortion provider.

“Are you on the side of life? Or are you on the side of those who would take lives and profit from the blood money associated with it?” Bevin said.

Bevin is trying to become the first two-term Republican governor in Kentucky history, but he has the lowest approval rating of any governor in the country after a series of inflammatory comments about teachers and other gaffes.

Bevin has also been clinging to Donald Trump’s popularity in Kentucky, and has appropriated the president’s signature policy — immigration.

“Are you on the side of sanctuary cities? Or are you on the side of protecting the rule of law and securing our borders? Which side are you on?” Bevin said.

The speeches that happen at Fancy Farm are not your average political speeches. It’s less issues and more endurance sport.

For one, politicians have to try and rise above a rowdy crowd yelling at them. And then, it’s a no-holds barred barrage of attacks against their opponents.

Jacqueline Coleman, running mate of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear, called Bevin the “Christian Laettner of Kentucky politics.”

“They’re both privileged private school kids, they’re both infamous for taking cheap shots and they can dish it out, but neither one of them can take it,” Coleman said, referring to the legendary Duke Basketball player who was the bane of UK fans in the early 90s.

Nearly all the Democrats took shots at the top of the top of the ticket. But for the most part, Republicans shied away from talking about Bevin’s reelection, either focusing on their opponents or other issues.

Republican candidate for attorney general Daniel Cameron claimed that his opponent Greg Stumbo would make Kentucky a so-called “sanctuary state,” and criticized Stumbo’s long career in politics.

“Greg Stumbo is like the milk you have in the carton at the back of your refrigerator.” Cameron said. This carton has been spoiling for 30 years, and folks, it smells terrible!”

Bevin skipped the event for the last two years. And that’s where Democratic rival Andy Beshear started his jokes.

“Thank you St. Jerome and thank you Fancy Farm,” Beshear said. “And thank you to the governor for finally showing up. I guess we’ve got to thank the Koch brothers, too, for letting him.”

And then Beshear took a shot at Bevin’s “diss track” that he recently posted on social media while reminding the audience of Bevin’s frayed relationship with his Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton.

“Governor, your staff let you do that and you fired Jenean Hampton’s folks?” Beshear said.

Throughout Fancy Farm, Democratic hecklers shouted “Moscow Mitch,” referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to take up election security bills.

McConnell was one of the few Republican candidates to mention Bevin’s reelection on stage.

And he addressed his Democratic hecklers…by not addressing them.

“I’m going to spend as much time talking about them as Kentuckians will voting for them this November…none,” McConnell said.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.