PADUCAH — Four state Democratic constitutional officers touted their political party Friday at a labor luncheon, but only one is scheduled to speak Saturday at the 132nd annual Fancy Farm picnic.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Friday before she hosted her second annual labor appreciation luncheon at a downtown Paducah restaurant that she had accepted an invitation to speak at the picnic that traditionally kicks off the fall political campaigns in Kentucky.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said last week that he would not attend the picnic because he is on an economic development trip to Germany and France, and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said a family matter would keep him from the picnic at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Graves County. Attorney General Jack Conway, Auditor Adam Edelen and Treasurer Todd Hollenbach spoke at Grimes' labor luncheon and are appearing at other Democratic events this weekend in Western Kentucky but have told party organizers they will not speak at the picnic.
Conway cited his parents' anniversary, Edelen said he didn't think voters wanted to hear a political speech from him this year and Hollenbach said he would be at the picnic to greet and meet people but would not be on the speakers' list.
Republicans have contended that Beshear and other no-show Democrats are running away from Democratic President Barack Obama.
Grimes said she could not speak about the intentions of other Democratic constitutional officers who have declined to speak at the picnic.
"To me, Western Kentucky is a priority. It is a priority," she said in an interview with reporters after the luncheon. "We have been in office seven months. We have been in Western Kentucky 10 times and we will continue to do that."
Asked whether she would mention at the picnic the presidential race between Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Grimes said, "It's obviously an office that is on the ballot. But I'm speaking in my capacity as secretary of state tomorrow and I'm not a surrogate for any other candidate or campaign, but making sure citizens understand my role as secretary of state."
Asked where there is a political risk for Democratic officeholders in Kentucky to talk about Obama, Grimes said, "I'm a lifelong Democrat. I'm very proud of that and the values our party stands for. My support of our party and our nominee is well-known."
She added: "It's no secret that I will be in North Carolina to support our nominee and party" at the Democratic presidential convention.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, will be the surrogate speaker for Beshear at the picnic.
The major Republican speaker will be U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, is skipping the picnic to spend time with his family. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, the only Republican state constitutional officer, will be the picnic's emcee.
Stumbo spoke briefly at Grimes' labor luncheon, which attracted more than 400 people, leaving time for the constitutional officers to talk.
At the luncheon, Conway did not mention Obama by name but took shots at Romney. He talked of speaking miscues Romney recently made during an overseas trip and said that Romney's "press secretary gave some remarks in Poland that made my Fancy Farm speech from a couple of years sound like a church sermon."
Conway was referring to the Fancy Farm speech in which he called himself "one tough son of a bitch." That led to picnic organizers implementing a rule against cursing at the picnic.
"We don't have to take any lip off anybody about being proud that we are Democrats," Conway said.
Hollenbach called Romney "an elitist," while Edelen said the political question this year is which party "will you put in control to watch your back." He also noted that he helped raise $15,000 Thursday at a skeet shoot in Western Kentucky to send 150 children to a conservation camp.
Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.