FANCY FARM — Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear avoided political partisanship during his speech Saturday at the annual Fancy Farm political picnic by focusing solely on his trip last week to visit troops in the Middle East.
But his Republican opponent, Senate President David Williams, said Beshear touted his trip because he has no real accomplishments, and independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith accused Beshear of "false military patriotism."
With his voice breaking slightly in the hot weather, Beshear told a rowdy crowd at the 131st annual Fancy Farm picnic that traditionally kicks off fall campaigns in Kentucky that a week ago he was prepared to give a speech marked with barbs toward opponents.
But Beshear, who returned Friday night from a weeklong trip visiting Kentucky troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, said the life-changing trip made him realize there were things more important than mud-slinging and name-calling.
"I will tell you something, my heart and mind are not with partisan politics. My heart and mind are thousands of miles away with our troops," said Beshear, who leads in the polls and has mostly ignored his opponents since May.
But Williams quipped during his speech that the reason Beshear's speech focused entirely on Kentucky's more than 10,000 military personnel serving overseas is that the Democratic governor has no real accomplishments to tout.
"If I was Steve Beshear, I wouldn't want to talk about my record, either," Williams said.
But Galbraith blasted Beshear for using the military during his political speech. Galbraith, a Lexington lawyer and perennial candidate, also was a Marine.
"That was the worst darn speech I've ever heard," Galbraith said. "I'm highly offended by it."
Both Galbraith and Williams said that Beshear visited the troops because he failed to go to Fort Campbell in May when President Barack Obama — who is unpopular in Kentucky — visited the troops involved with the killing of Osama bin Laden. Beshear has said that the state had short notice of Obama's trip to Kentucky and that he already had plans to meet with business executives at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Both Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul attacked Beshear and tried to tie him to Obama during their political speeches throughout the weekend.
Beshear and his running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, rarely mentioned Williams by name during their speeches this weekend.
McConnell, in a speech filled with one-liners, said both Beshear and Obama claim to have improved the economy, but Kentucky's unemployment rate is at a 25-year high.
"We need a governor who will stand up to Barack Obama, not endorse him," McConnell said. "And the man for that job is David Williams."
In Beshear's speech, he asked the crowd to applaud the many men and women in the military, saying they were "some of the best people I've ever met." Beshear said the experience was "the greatest trip of my lifetime."
Williams also touched on social issues, pledging to be a pro-life governor and a better steward of state tax dollars.
Beshear has borrowed and spent too much, Williams said.
"He spent all of your money, he spent all of Obama's money and now he's spending your children and grandchildren's money," said Williams, who has been senate president since 2000.
Galbraith, after chiding Beshear, told the crowd at the picnic sponsored by St. Jerome's Catholic Church that neither Beshear nor Williams had answers for Kentucky's problems.
"Neither party has presented any solutions," Galbraith said.
The candidates for lieutenant governor mirrored the speeches from the top of the ticket.
Abramson said he was running for the state's No. 2 office because of Beshear's "honesty, integrity and love for the commonwealth."
Abramson never mentioned his opponents.
Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, who is running with Williams, said Williams "is a pretty good guy" and that unemployment has exploded during the Beshear administration.
Farmer said Abramson would rather spend time with people who have Obama stickers on their vehicles. "You won't find them out here," he said.
Dea Riley, a Frankfort marketing consultant who is running with Galbraith, said it's "long overdue that we get these good old boys out of office."
She took a shot at Farmer when she said she is getting support from women and may even get the vote of Farmer's wife, who has sued him for divorce.