Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear chose not to attend this year’s Fancy Farm picnic, but Republican officials still made the Democratic governor a focal point of the weekend event.
The annual picnic on the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church in the far western Kentucky community has been a political tradition for well over a century as elected officials and candidates have given stump speeches to boisterous crowds.
Beshear, who has attended previous picnics, declined an invitation this year, citing the ongoing spread of COVID-19 as well as wanting to spend time with family. His absence and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman’s, the only statewide elected Democratic officials, left just GOP officeholders to take the microphone.
And for the most part, when they did, they were talking about Beshear.
As he started his remarks, Attorney General Daniel Cameron quipped he may have a lawsuit from the governor waiting on his desk when he returns to Frankfort. The two have clashed for more than a year over Beshear’s COVID-19 restrictions and currently have a case before the state Supreme Court over them.
Cameron told organizers they should have told Beshear they were having a press conference, a knock on the daily briefings the governor held during the early stages of the pandemic.
“I miss those press conferences because it was the only hour of the day I could be sure he wasn’t signing something that was unconstitutional,” Cameron said.
Republicans have complained Beshear has not worked with them, either in the executive offices or in the state legislature where they control both chambers by large margins.
Several bills that lawmakers passed this year and enacted over Beshear’s vetoes have since been challenged by the governor in the courts.
“Someday, we’ll have a governor who sits down with the other side of the aisle,” said Secretary of State Michael Adams, who worked with Beshear on reforming the 2020 elections during the pandemic. “Someday, we’ll have a governor who doesn’t attack legislators.”
Beshear’s term does not end until 2023. State Auditor Mike Harmon, another picnic speaker, previously announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination. However, no one else in the party used the picnic or the other related political events held over the weekend to make a similar announcement.
But they were all in unison, though, about the need to beat him in two years.
“My fellow Kentuckians, it is time for a new governor of the commonwealth of Kentucky,” Agriculture Secretary Ryan Quarles, another possible 2023 candidate, said in his opening remarks. “The fact that Gov. Andrew Beshear did not show up today proves that he has abandoned rural Kentucky.”