Kentucky Politics

Politicians warmed up their insults and stump speeches at the Graves County Republican Breakfast ahead of the annual Fancy Farm picnic Saturday morning, criticizing Democrats for skipping the event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But two notable Republicans will be absent as well—U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul—who said they had to remain in Washington D.C. to participate in negotiations over the federal infrastructure bill.

Both McConnell and Paul sent in video recorded speeches to the GOP breakfast. McConnell noted how there are far more Republicans attending the Fancy Farm picnic than there were when he first ran for Senate in 1984.

“We’ve come a long way,” McConnell said. “Now back up in Louisville, they’re sort of blowing it off these days because the Democrats don’t want to come down here.”

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman declined their invitations to Fancy Farm this year because the coronavirus delta variant is surging across the state and nation.

McConnell joked that Beshear and Coleman were “too afraid to pay the Biden gas prices to get out here and take their lumps.”

“Fancy Farm of course needs to continue, even if the Democrats won’t show up,” McConnell said.

Typically, the Fancy Farm picnic is the beginning of the Fall campaign season in Kentucky, though there are no statewide elections  this year.

Since its inception in the late 19th Century, the event has evolved from traditional stump speaking to a comedic roast, where politicians sling insults at each other and a rowdy crowd alternates between cheering and booing the speakers.

Fancy Farm itself is a tiny town—population about 500—situated in far western Kentucky, which has transformed from a Democratic stronghold into a reliably Republican district over the last 20 years or so.

U.S. Rep. James Comer, who has represented the western Kentucky district since 2017, celebrated the transition.

“Our country needs a strong two-party system, and we have that in west Kentucky: We have the Republican party, and we have the Independents,” Comer said.

Comer is the ranking member on the U.S House Oversight committee and said he has “one goal in politics: to fire Nancy Pelosi.”

He said Republicans haven’t done well with suburban women voters in recent elections, but predicted the party would win them back by focusing on issues like critical race theory, COVID-19 disrupting schools and law enforcement.

“If you’re a criminal, are you going to rob people in Graves County or are you going to rob people in the city?” Comer asked.

“If they know anything about Graves County or Monroe County [where Comer is from], they’re not going to go knocking on anybody’s door, because we all believe in the Second Amendment. And it’s not going to end well for these criminals in the rural areas.”

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.