About two weeks ago, as the golfers were finishing their rounds at Bardstown Country Club, Jack Conway stood in a clubhouse dining room and saw the end of summer approaching and with it, an end to some of the issues that threatened to derail his Democratic campaign for governor.
"Yeah, I think I've survived it," said Conway, the state's attorney general.
It was a summer of enormous social change, marked by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, and Conway was eager to turn to a fall campaign centered on economic issues lest his campaign hopes evaporate under the heat of backlash in a socially conservative state.
"I think as the summer wanes, the headwinds are waning too," Conway said at the time.
Never miss a local story.
But Tuesday's events in Rowan County prove that the calendar page has not turned on the cultural battles unleashed by the high court's decision, and with each fresh round of headlines about gay marriage, Conway's hopes of winning the governor's mansion become more strained.
"Events that keep cultural and social issues at the forefront of political discussion do (Conway) no favors, even if no one's specifically talking about him, because they cue swing voters to think about their choice from more of a Republican perspective," said Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.
But Republican nominee Matt Bevin is specifically talking about Conway and his role in the same-sex marriage debate.
Bevin appears to be taking up the cause of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis as his own, using the latest battle in the culture wars to consolidate his evangelical base and cast Conway as a liberal in the mold of President Barack Obama.
Within hours of Davis' decision Tuesday morning to defy a court order and continue her refusal to issue marriage licenses, Bevin issued a statement that blamed Conway for the drama unfolding in Morehead. He followed that up with a series of Twitter posts and a conference call for reporters Tuesday afternoon.
After railing against Conway's "hypocrisy" and "double standard," Bevin said on the conference call that he would assuage Davis' concerns by removing the names of clerks from marriage licenses — a proposal Conway has said he is "fine" with — and making it a "downloadable form."
"Jack Conway has failed to do his job as attorney general by refusing to defend Kentucky's marriage amendment, and he is failing to defend the religious freedom of our Kentucky clerks," Bevin said in his statement. "I once again call on Governor (Steve) Beshear and AG Conway to do their jobs and defend the constitutional rights of all Kentuckians, including our county clerks."
Bevin added that "playing political games with the lives of elected officials is unacceptable," ignoring the irony that an outsider, small government-minded candidate was defending an elected politician's religious beliefs over the constitutional rights of tax-paying citizens.
Citing the Herald-Leader, Bevin said that "Conway's refusal to defend Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban is costing Kentucky taxpayers $2.3 million in outside legal fees."
That claim is divorced from reality, since Conway made very clear late last year that he thought the case was unwinnable and that defending an unconstitutional law was tantamount to throwing away money already in short supply. Had Beshear followed Conway's lead, the lawyers who represented same-sex couples seeking equal treatment under the law would have had no hours to bill and no place to send the invoice.
Still, Bevin's line of attack could be the magic formula that denies Conway the chance to build a coalition of conservative and liberal Democrats.
Conway's decision not to appeal the initial lower-court ruling helped him dramatically with the liberal Democrats he will need to show up in November, and it was a big reason the attorney general was able to avoid a long and expensive primary fight.
But as the gay marriage fight has endured, Conway has sought compromise, saying he is open to finding an "alternative avenue" that would allow county clerks with religious objections to avoid issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That could appear like equivocation to voters who view the issue as a matter of equality and basic civil rights.
The more Conway seeks to appease both liberal and conservative Democrats, the more likely it becomes that those on the left will look to the candidacy of independent Drew Curtis.
"Forcing Conway to take a stand on a controversial cultural issue puts him in a bind, because if his response targets a middle-of-the-road Kentucky voter, he risks alienating the Democratic Party's activists," Voss said.
In elections like this one, where neither party is really all that excited about their nominee, elections are decided by who fires up and turns out the most core supporters.
For Bevin, the gay marriage fight is helping that cause. For Conway, it is prolonging an uncomfortable summer and threatening to tear his already fragile coalition apart.