Missed Fancy Farm? Here are memorable moments from Kentucky’s annual political picnic

·8 min read

In the realm of Kentucky politics, the first Saturday in August means one thing: Fancy Farm.

Elected officials and aspiring officeholders alike make the trek to Graves County in far Western Kentucky each year, where St. Jerome Catholic Church hosts the annual fundraising picnic. There, a rambunctious crowd boos, heckles and jeers its way through opponents’ speeches and waves signs and cheers in support of their chosen candidates.

With a few Democrats back on the stage after skipping last year, the 142nd picnic saw insults and ‘zingers’ flying across both sides of the aisle.

Missed all the action this weekend? Here’s a rundown of the day’s best quips:

Republicans tee off on Democrats

House Speaker and Fancy Farm emcee David Osborne, R-Prospect, said that it was “tough to be funny” given recent mass-scale tragedies on both ends of the state between flooding in the East and tornadoes in the West, but that “people need to laugh.”

His introductions were often filled with barbs for politicians of both political stripes.

Osborne made quick reference to a legislative letdown for some: the failure of the General Assembly to pass a bill legalizing sports betting. The measure was supported by Osborne and passed the House this session, only to be blocked by the more socially conservative Senate.

“For gambling on any sport other than the blood sport of politics, you’re gonna have to go across the river to Missouri or Illinois,” Osborne quipped.

The makeup of the state legislature was also fair game for Osborne, who leads a 75-25 majority in the House that could grow after Republicans drew maps generally beneficial to their own candidates.

“In our own caucus I have factions larger than the entire Democratic party,” Osborne said.

The speaker’s digs on Democrats were generally harsher, though he didn’t exclude Republicans.

He referenced reporting that showed Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman setting up friends with unemployment claims while the state was inundated with such claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We don’t really know why the lieutenant governor couldn’t be here, she just said she wasn’t coming − kind of like those unemployment checks she promised,” Osborne said.

He also jokingly consoled First Congressional District Congressman James Comer on his narrow GOP gubernatorial primary loss to former Kentucky governor Matt Bevin in 2015, saying that “you’re the one still elected, and on top of that you’re the only one still in Frankfort.”

Comer and his wife have owned a residence in Franklin County – they also own a house in Monroe County, where he is from, as well as multiple farm properties there according to local property value administrators. Some have suggested that Comer’s home in Franklin County is the reason that the once-entirely Western and Southern Kentucky district to have snaked North into Central Kentucky during the GOP-led redistricting process.

Kelley Paul, wife of Sen. Rand Paul, focused much of her speech on anti-transgender rhetoric, the economy and the diminishing presence of Democrats in Kentucky.

But, speaking in place of her husband because the Senate was in session, Paul didn’t hold back in criticizing Democrat Charles Booker for paying himself $150,000 from his own “Hood to the Holler” foundation.

“”You know what? I have a good idea for him: Maybe he should rename it ‘From the Hood to the Dollar,’” she said.

She also said that Bookers’ ad featuring himself in a noose, meant to criticize Paul’s opposition to an early version of an anti-lynching law, looks like it was “inspired by Jussie Smollett.” Smollett is an actor who infamously staged a hate crime against himself.

Further, she tried to tie Booker to Quintez Brown, a prominent young writer who attempted to assassinate Louisville Democratic mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg.

Greenberg called Kelley Paul’s effort to do that “reprehensible” in a Twitter post Saturday night.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron spent much of his speech making a serious case for his run for governor. He notably pumped his fist proclaiming to law enforcement that he would “always have your back and we will always support the blue” while Democrats chanted “Breonna Taylor.”

But he offered at least one joke on the stage Saturday.

In reference to a recently announced endorsement he scored from former president Donald Trump, Cameron said that would “spill the beans” about how it came to fruition. He poked fun at a false rumor that his wife Makenze is related to Senator Mitch McConnell and referenced McConnell’s fraught relationship with the former president.

“All I had to do was assure Trump that Mitch McConnell is not Makenze’s grandfather,” Cameron said.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s change of plans (he initially was scheduled to visit Israel over the weekend) left some Republicans with less strong material given his work in Eastern Kentucky responding to the deadly flooding there. But that didn’t stop some from poking fun at what they characterized as Beshear’s hunger for cameras and credit.

Agriculture Commissioner and candidate for Governor Ryan Quarles speaks during the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic before politicians deliver speeches in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.
Agriculture Commissioner and candidate for Governor Ryan Quarles speaks during the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic before politicians deliver speeches in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.

2023 governor candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles joked that people flocked to Fancy Farm “like a moth to a flame, like Andy Beshear to giant checks, like an attorney general to the governors’ race.”

Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, who announced her endorsement for her 2023 gubernatorial run from U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie during her speech, was not afraid to turn some of her barbs at her fellow GOP electeds, calling her gubernatorial opponents the “opposite of the Dos Equis beer guy. They’re the least interesting men in politics.”

Candidate for Governor Savannah Maddox speaks the crowd gathered for the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic before politicians deliver speeches in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.
Candidate for Governor Savannah Maddox speaks the crowd gathered for the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic before politicians deliver speeches in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.

Cameron, she said, was “in hiding” during Beshear’s COVID-19 lockdowns, and Quarles has the cleanest boots and least-muddy truck of any farmer she knows. But her sharpest comments were reserved for “tyrant” Beshear, who Maddox said needs to be “de-throned.”’

2023 gubernatorial candidate Auditor Mike Harmon focused on tying Beshear to President Joe Biden, whose approval rating nationally is much lower than Beshear’s in Kentucky. He carried on with a Jeff Foxworthy-style ‘you might be a Beshear-Biden Democrat if’ routine.

State Auditor and candidate for Governor Mike Harmon speaks during the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.
State Auditor and candidate for Governor Mike Harmon speaks during the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.

Democrats focus their jabs at Paul, Cameron

Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge heaped praise on Beshear for his response to the December tornadoes that tore through Western Kentucky and the recent flooding that devastated parts of Eastern Kentucky.

But he didn’t leave the stage before getting his digs in at the GOP, calling out Rand Paul for an “atrocious” vote against military veterans while the Kentucky National Guard is deployed to help in the flooding’s aftermath in Eastern Kentucky.

“Imagine being so afraid of a Black guy from the West End of Louisville ending your career that you don’t show up to debate,” he said of Paul, who is facing Booker in the general election this November.

Democratic Chair Colmon Elridge speaks before U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker during the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic before politicians deliver speeches in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.
Democratic Chair Colmon Elridge speaks before U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker during the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic before politicians deliver speeches in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.

Elridge dedicated much of his time to the highly anticipated 2023 governor’s race, which has already attracted a crowd of GOP hopefuls.

“Now, I want to be clear, because we’ve got the attorney general here, and he’s not used to practicing law. So when I say ‘beat’ I don’t mean in the physical sense. I mean ‘beat’ like Steve Beshear beat David Williams and Ernie Fletcher. I mean ‘beat’ like Andy Beshear beat Matt Bevin. I mean ‘beat’ like when Andy Beshear beats whatever Republican makes it off the Gilligan’s Island of the GOP primary, unless Kelly Craft gets off her yacht to buy the island first.”

Elridge took aim at several of the GOP candidates in attendance:

“Mike Harmon is here,” he deadpanned, adding nothing else.

Maddox, he said, she “runs with a tough crowd” of “insurrectionists” and “white supremacists.” And if that offends them, Colmon advised they “Try Jesus, but don’t try me.”

Colmon mocked Cameron’s poorly timed campaign tweet asking for jokes – posted just 45 minutes before the federal Department of Justice announced charges against four officers in the Breonna Taylor case, renewing scrutiny of the first-term AG’s handling of the state investigation – saying he “always sends someone else to do his job.”

Booker, too, spoke of the recent natural disasters that have hit the commonwealth, noting Kentuckians “lock arms” to help one another.

“Kentuckians show up, so that’s why it should be no surprise to anybody that Rand Paul is nowhere to be found,” Booker said to raucous cheers from his supporters. “I know Rand Paul sent his better half, but that’s unfortunate because it’s his job that I’m going to take.”

U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker speaks the crowd gathered for the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic before politicians deliver speeches in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.
U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker speaks the crowd gathered for the 142nd annual St. Jeromes Fancy Farm Picnic before politicians deliver speeches in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 6, 2022.

Paul, who did not attend the Fancy Farm picnic because of a conflicting Senate vote, also couldn’t miss his “monthly hair appointment,” Booker said.

“That perm wasn’t gon’ fix itself,” he said.

Booker called Paul a joke, a clown, an embarrassment, a fraud, a crisis actor, a conspiracy theorist and a liar.

“And that’s just what Donald Trump would say about him,” Booker said, prompting boos from Paul’s supporters in the crowd. “And don’t get me started on what Mitch McConnell thinks about Rand Paul.”

First Congressional District Democratic candidate Jimmy Ausbrooks, who is gay, didn’t go for many jokes, but did pivot his speech to address anti-LGBTQ comments made by Paul’s wife, Kelley Paul.