Thousands enjoy day of warmth in politics and temperatures at Fancy Farm
by LUKE KEITH, JR.
Pubsliher’s note: After decades of hearing about and wanting to attend the annual political gathering on the grounds of St. Jerome Catholic Church at Fancy Farm, Kentucky, I finally made the trip this past Saturday. Although a long day, to be exact a little over 18 hours from the time I left Hazard until I got back home, it was the first of what I hope to be many trips for the annual event.
The 127th Annual Fancy Farm gathering had gotten what some thought to be bad press by Kentucky’s Junior Senator Jim Bunning’s remarks about the event. Political Speaking Chairmen Mark Wilson told the crowd that the Graves County Sheriff was there with his “swat squad,” which was an oversized fly swatter to make sure there were no future remarks of the kind Bunning had made about the historical event that this year drew in excess of 10,000 people from all over Kentucky as well as several other states.
Chairman Wilson then turned over the podium to the new priest at St. Jerome Parish, Father David Willett. Father Willett, although he has only held the position of Priest of the Parish for a month, grew up in the most attractive Western Kentucky community of Fancy Farm. He has returned to his home place after serving as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army for 34 years.
Father Willett introduced John J. McRaith of Owensboro, who is Bishop of the Diocese of which St. Jerome is a part. Bishop McRaith’s opening prayer asked for God’s blessings on the gathering along with liberty to the world which his prayer stated needed to start at home. The Bishop’s prayer also called upon God’s help to bring justice to this country’s immigration system, noting that all American’s hail from families from other countries.
State Senate President David Williams was emcee of the event. Although there has been much talk of late about Western Kentuckians changing from longstanding registration as Democrats to Republicans, except for the temperature of near 100 degrees, Williams did not receive a warm reception from the group.
U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell had many jabs to throw at the Beshear-Mongiardo team, but the crowd’s boos to his remarks cut short his comments. Since McConnell refused to speak to Ernie Fletcher for many months and even backed the ill-fated candidacy of former Congresswoman Ann Northrup in the Republican primary for Governor, Beshear told the group that he was happy that the Senator had finally remembered Ernie Fletcher’s name, a remark that drew lots of laughter from the group.
McConnell’s supporters’ chant “stitch with Mitch” was greatly overpowered by his opponents’ often heard term “ditch Mitch.”
Many of the Republican speakers tried to convince the crowd that Steve Beshear was responsible for all the controversy about the removal of the Ten Commandments from schools and public buildings. The ruling to remove the Ten Commandments from public buildings was a law instated by United States Supreme Court at the time candidate for Governor Steve Beshear was Kentucky’s Attorney General. His response to the remarks made by the Republicans was very forthright and to the point. He stated, that unlike Fletcher, he abided by the laws of his office, and while talking about the Ten Commandments, he told the crowd that his father, a lay Baptist Minister as well as the son of a Baptist Minister had long told him “it’s not so important where the Ten Commandments hang: it’s important that you live by the Ten Commandments.” The quote of Governor candidate Beshear’s father drew a long round of applause on the church grounds.
Hazard’s Dr. Daniel Mongiardo told the Fancy Farm crowd “it’s time to close the book on corruption in Frankfort,” and he told the group that he and Beshear had the character and vision to make Kentucky a very good place to live. Mongiardo and Beshear both stated their team would be accountable to the state’s people, not to just their contributors.
When Steve Beshear stated “what’s going on in Frankfort should not stay in Frankfort,” he remarks were immediately answered by “it’s time for change.” Beshear reminded the group the Republicans had stooped to bashing their opponents because they could not talk about what they have done while in office. Another point Fletcher tried to sidestep was the fact he had named one of his defense attorneys, Caroline Clarke to a $100,000.00 position with the Kentucky Public Service Commission. It was pointed out that Ms. Clarke and her father, both with the firm of Landrum and Shouse had acted as Fletcher’s defense attorneys when he was indicted.
Signs and remarks were not limited to just those seeking office in Kentucky. Many banners were seen that stated “when Bush took office, gas was $1.46.”
Along with the political speaking, the Fancy Farm gathering has long been known for the food that is available at the event. The vegetables are grown in that area and cooked by members and friends of the Parish. Barbequed meats have long been a staple of the event, and this year was no exception with the event being covered by Food Network.
Former candidate for Governor on the Republican ticket, Lawrence Forgy was passing out stickers announcing his plans to run against Senator McConnell is the 2008 primary. When Forgy was asked what he meant by the wording on his campaign material, “vote for a straight Republican,” he refused to comment. He did say he would not decide whether or not to run until after the governor’s race is over.
The political punches were ended with long time state official and now Kentucky’s Auditor Crit Luallen, and she did not end her remarks with “cake and ice cream” remarks. She told the gathering that in her over thirty years in state government she had never seen such an incompetent administration that had been such an embarrassment to the people of the Commonwealth as was the case with the Fletcher administration.
Another point made public on Saturday about the Fletcher Administration happened in neighboring Breathitt County. The special grand jury that indicted many in the Fletcher Administration charged in indictments that in 2004, Transportation Cabinet officials transferred Scotty Fugate from his job as Administrative Manager for the Highway Department’s office in Jackson to a job 150 miles from his home, and this was done to force his retirement so his job could be filled by a Fletcher supporter. Fugate, a Democrat, was 62 years of age at the time, and rather than move, he opted to retire.
The Transportation Cabinet filled the job by promoting Billy Montgomery, a Republican who was supported by four Republican judge executives.
Montgomery’s appointment was complained about by Ron Easter, an employee at the Jackson office, and in his remarks to the State Personnel Board, Easter said he was far more qualified for the job than Montgomery, and that the latter got the appointment for political reasons only.
In a settlement filed last week, the Transportation Cabinet agreed to pay Easter $50,000.00 in “economic damages” for denying him the promotion. The Cabinet also agreed to give Easter a raise in pay of $5,136.00 which will boost his annual salary to $63,677.00.
It was also brought out that Montgomery, who has since resigned, was one of two trying to get the job back in 2004. The other person trying for it was former State Representative James Maggard, a Democrat who campaigned for Fletcher against Ben Chandler when the two were running for Governor. Maggard did not get the Highway Department job, but Fletcher did hire Maggard, and he got a pay raise.
When asked about Clarke’s appointment to the Commission, Beshear’s spokeswoman Vicki Glass said there was no comment, but present Attorney General and possible U.S. Senatorial candidate Greg Stumbo has said it is his opinion that members of the Public Service Commission should be elected by the state’s voters.
Those who attended the 127th Annual Fancy Farm gathering seemed to enjoy the food, cold water and the heat from the political talks. To counteract the heat in the air, there were many fans with the statement “Beshear-Mongiardo Fans Win.”
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