CALVERT CITY — Friday night, on the eve of the annual Fancy Farm political picnic, Republican gubernatorial nominee David Williams lashed out at Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and his running mate on the issues of abortion and gun control.
Before about 200 people at a Republican rally at the Calvert City Civic Center, Williams said no right is more important than the right to life.
Williams claimed Beshear and his running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, are saying "disparaging things" about the controversial merger of three Kentucky hospital systems.
The merger would unite University Hospital in Louisville with Jewish and St. Mary's HealthCare and Lexington-based St. Joseph Health System, owned by Catholic Health Initiatives of Denver.
Some residents have expressed concern about how reproductive and end-of-life care will be handled at the hospitals with the merger. University Hospital has agreed to abide by Catholic health directives, meaning certain services, such as sterilizations, would no longer be allowed to be performed in the hospital.
Representatives of the merging hospitals contend that no services will be lost.
Williams said Beshear and Abramson are "meddling" in the merger.
"The reason they are doing it is because they are worried about the abortion issue," Williams said. "They want elective abortions to be guaranteed. They want to expand abortion rights. They are the same people that did not want to defend the unborn."
Concerning gun control, Williams said the issue in his home county of Cumberland means "having a steady aim."
But Abramson is the "gun control czar of the commonwealth of Kentucky," Williams said. "He's never heard of the Second Amendment. They hide him from the gun shows."
Matt Erwin, spokesman for the Beshear-Abramson campaign, responded: "This is a desperate campaign, down in the polls, that says more and more outrageous things every day."
Meanwhile, Democrats gathered Friday night at Kentucky Dam Village.
Beshear could not make the traditional Democratic Party bean soup dinner because he had just returned from a weeklong trip to Iraq, Afganistan and Kuwait to visit some of Kentucky's 12,000 troops.
First lady Jane Beshear, who spoke in place of the governor, said her husband was exhausted, but she said his trip has prepared him for the political theater of Fancy Farm.
"After having been in 147-degree weather and having been on the battle lines there, he's ready for tomorrow," Jane Beshear said.
Jane Beshear asked the more than 400 Marshall County Democrats for their support, saying that she knew the campaign was going to be nasty, "probably starting tomorrow." She said the Republican Governor's Association and others have started to pour money into the race, and she asked Democrats to come together to counter it.
Abramson touted Beshear's record, saying he has spent the past four years dealing with one of the largest financial crises in recent history. At the same time, Beshear has revamped the state's economic incentive programs and brought jobs to Kentucky.
Abramson said Beshear managed the state's finances without cutting teachers or raising taxes, unlike what other governors have done.
"He didn't raise taxes, and protected education," Abramson said to loud applause from two tables of teachers.
Abramson and Jane Beshear did not mention Williams by name during their speeches.
But Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, told the crowd that Williams has spent more money in Frankfort over the past 12 years than any other person.
Carroll, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday and is a former governor, said people have asked him whether he is going to retire soon.
"I'm in, until David Williams is out," Carroll said. "I've never seen such a self-righteous individual as David Williams. ... He is the biggest spender in the state Capitol."