With Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway preparing to square off at Thursday's Kentucky Farm Bureau forum for gubernatorial candidates, Democrats are pulling out the long knives, questioning Bevin's commitment to agriculture and pressing the theme that Bevin "can't be trusted."
During a conference call Wednesday morning organized by the Kentucky Democratic Party, one Kentucky farmer even made note of Bevin's New Hampshire upbringing.
Bevin has often touted that he grew up on a farm there.
"He is not a true Kentucky native, and I question his loyalty to agriculture," said Alex Barnett, a farmer and the Harrison County judge-executive.
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The thrust of the conference call was to draw attention to Bevin's stated opposition to last year's federal farm bill, with Barnett, party chairman Patrick Hughes and former agriculture commissioner candidate David Neville accusing Bevin of putting his political ambitions ahead of the needs of Kentucky farmers.
Ben Hartman, Bevin's campaign manager, dismissed the criticisms as an attempt to distract voters "from the fact that Jack Conway has no solutions for Kentucky and has embraced Barack Obama's policies, including Obamacare."
He said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, whom Bevin defeated in the May primary, has endorsed Bevin.
The criticisms leveled at Bevin had a familiar ring: Many of the gripes about delayed passage of the massive agricultural bill were used during last year's U.S. Senate campaign, when Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes accused incumbent Mitch McConnell, now the Senate majority leader, of failing to push for timely passage of the bill.
McConnell voted for the Farm Bill, drawing criticism from Bevin at the time. (U.S. Sen. Rand Paul voted against it, citing the cost.)
"Between the federal government's massive overreach into the free markets and the fact that 80 percent of spending is going to welfare programs, this is a sad excuse for a farm bill," Bevin said in a statement last year.
Allison Moore, who was a McConnell spokeswoman, responded that the McConnell campaign didn't "expect a New England millionaire to understand Kentucky farm families, but if Bevin ever spoke to our farmers, he would understand the importance of this bill to Kentucky agriculture."
McConnell has since endorsed Bevin for governor and plans to headline a fundraiser for him next month.
Hughes said voters would "probably see (Bevin) tomorrow trying to remake himself," pointing to a list of issues on which Bevin has changed position or made inaccurate assertions, and again recalling criticisms leveled by McConnell's staff during last year's U.S. Senate primary.
"He doesn't understand how agriculture works," Hughes said.