Fancy Farm weekend filled with political rhetoric

FRANKFORT — Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway's Fancy Farm political picnic weekend will start with some skeet shooting early Friday at Calvert City Gun Club, followed by a labor luncheon in Paducah at noon with Gov. Steve Beshear.

Conway's Republican challenger, Rand Paul, is the scheduled speaker Friday morning at the McCracken County Republican Women luncheon in Paducah, and like Conway, will attend party rallies Friday evening and breakfasts Saturday morning.

The main event — two hours of old-style political stump speaking — begins at 2 p.m. CDT at Fancy Farm.

This year's first Saturday in August will mark the 130th annual Fancy Farm picnic in the community of Fancy Farm (pop. 1,731) in Graves County, in far Western Kentucky.

The free-to-attend-but-come-to-eat picnic on the grounds of St. Jerome Parish is the traditional kickoff of the fall election campaign in Kentucky.

The spotlight this year will be on the U.S. Senate race between Conway, the state's attorney general from Louisville, and Paul, an eye surgeon in Bowling Green making his first bid for public office.

Another major focus at the picnic will be on who is running next year for governor and other state constitutional offices.

So what should voters expect from U.S. Senate candidates at this year's edition of Fancy Farm, which is known for its hot rhetoric and temperatures?

Paul said he plans to "keep saying what we've been saying the last year-and-a-half and what Kentucky voters are concerned with."

He said he will concentrate on the national debt and how businesses can help grow the economy if government gets out of the way.

Paul also said he will mention President Barack Obama and Conway's association with him.

"Most Kentuckians don't agree with President Obama's agenda, and that puts my opponent in a hard place because he either has to agree with President Obama or run headlong away," he said.

In a statement, Conway's campaign promised to draw a sharp distinction between his "proven record of protecting the people of Kentucky" and Paul, "a man who would put so many people at risk in so many ways that he's now hiding his real positions, hoping Kentuckians don't find out about them before the election."

Each U.S. Senate candidate will get five minutes during the political speaking at the picnic.

Both can expect heckling, a staple at the picnic. But no speaker this year will be allowed to use profanity. Conway caused a stir last year when he said in his speech that he had a tough hide and was "one tough son of a bitch."

The line gained infamy on the Internet, and Conway later apologized.

Picnic organizers this year warn that any speaker using salty language will be asked to sit down. That might motivate speakers to follow a script.

Expect Republican speakers such as U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who gets seven minutes to speak, to utter the word "Obama" repeatedly as they pound home the president's unpopularity in Kentucky.

Beshear also gets to speak for seven minutes, and is expected to tout Conway and other Democratic candidates this fall. He might mention that he is seeking re-election next year.

The speakers' list also includes Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who lost to Paul in May's GOP primary election for the U.S. Senate.

Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo was scheduled to speak but said earlier this week, after endorsing Conway in the Senate race, that he wanted Conway to get all the attention this weekend.

Concerning next year's governor's race, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, will get bombarded by questions about his interest in running with Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer as his running mate. Neither has yet declared.

Williams is scheduled to attend the Graves County Republican breakfast, but Farmer is not scheduled to appear at the picnic or activities surrounding it.

The featured speaker at the GOP breakfast will be U.S. House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Kentucky Educational Television is providing live coverage of the speeches at the picnic.

KET spokesman Timothy Bischoff said viewers can watch the program live on KET or online at beginning at 2:30 p.m. EDT Saturday.

He said C-SPAN is planning to pick up KET's coverage, but he did not know when it would be aired.

Bischoff also said KET's public affairs show Comment on Kentucky will be aired live from Fancy Farm at 8 p.m. EDT Friday.