Beshear, Cameron warm up jabs in party gatherings before Fancy Farm main event

Beans and breakfast in West Kentucky

By: and - August 5, 2023 12:06 pm

The crowd stands for the Pledge of Allegiance at the Graves County Republican Party Breakfast on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Austin Anthony)

MAYFIELD — Republican Daniel Cameron said Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is out of step with Kentucky values as Beshear said “the other side” stands for division and even hate during party gatherings leading up to the main event Saturday afternoon at the Fancy Farm Picnic.

Rivals Cameron and Beshear will share a stage for the first time as the Kentucky governor’s race serves as backdrop for the 143rd renewal of the picnic, a fundraiser for Saint Jerome Catholic Church.

At the Graves County GOP Breakfast on Saturday morning in Mayfield — about 15 minutes from the picnic grounds — Kentucky Republicans highlighted their slate of candidates with Cameron, who handily won a contested primary, chief among them.

On Friday night, Democrats rallied at the Mike Miller Memorial Marshall County Bean Dinner near Kentucky Lake, the party’s traditional precursor to the famous picnic with its speeches and heckling.  

The preliminaries. Fancy Farm ’23 photo gallery

To the dozens who attended the GOP breakfast, Cameron reiterated much of what he has said on the campaign trail and that Beshear doesn’t represent Kentucky values. 

“If you care about the unborn and making sure that they have an opportunity to reach their fullest and God given potential,” Cameron said, “if you care about our kids and our grandkids, if you want to make sure that this commonwealth is the best and brightest version of itself, then I hope you will take the charge seriously to work hard over the course of these next 95 days.”

The night before, Beshear, garnering the most cheers of the night, called on the crowd to join together to defeat Cameron. 

“What do you see on the other side, you see that division, you see the fostering of anger, you even see them encouraging people to violate that golden rule, encouraging one Kentuckian to hate another,” Beshear said. “I don’t know about you. But I want to prove that it’s a losing strategy in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” 

Gov. Andy Beshear shakes a supporter’s hand during the annual Marshall County Democratic Party bean dinner on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 at Kentucky Dam Convention Center. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Austin Anthony)

Voters in Marshall County, much like the rest of West Kentucky, have drifted away from Democrats in recent decades as Republicans now dominate elections for statewide office, the legislature and increasingly local government as well. 

The Fancy Farm Picnic, attended by thousands who dine on barbecue and play Bingo, also gains statewide and national attention, allowing candidates to spread their message far and wide.

At the Graves County breakfast, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell concluded the list of speakers. His appearance at this year’s picnic comes after McConnell suddenly paused mid-sentence while addressing reporters in the Capitol last week. 

McConnell said this year would not be his last time attending the picnic and that Republicans still have a job to do— defeat Beshear in November. U.S. Rep. James Comer, a Republican who represents West Kentucky and is spearheading an investigation into the Biden family, touched on his criticisms of the president.

National issues were highlighted by down ballot Republicans as well. They candidates expressed support for each other at the Graves County Breakfast. Collectively, they laid out their case against the Beshear and Biden administrations. 

Jonathan Shell, the GOP agriculture commissioner candidate, encouraged his supporters to “Stop Biden” for Kentucky. Throughout the weekend, his campaign signs around Fancy Farm had a similar message. 

Gubernatorial candidate Daniel Cameron speaks during the Graves County Republican Party Breakfast on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Austin Anthony)

Elected Republicans, including former gubernatorial candidates State Auditor Mike Harmon and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, also gave brief remarks at the Graves County breakfast. Quarles, who is in his second term, indicated that his work in public service is not over. 

On the Democratic side, hopefuls for statewide office, ranging from candidates for state treasurer Michael Bowman and auditor Kim Reeder, got up on the state resort park convention center stage to pitch their campaign platforms, lob some initial jabs at their opponents and fire up the crowd. 

Some Democratic statewide candidates touted specific policy proposals as they weaved in attacks on Republicans. Democratic secretary of state candidate and former state Rep. Buddy Wheatley called for two weeks of early voting ahead of elections and an independent redistricting commission

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.

Liam Niemeyer
Liam Niemeyer

Liam covers government and policy in Kentucky and its impacts throughout the Commonwealth for the Kentucky Lantern. He most recently spent four years reporting award-winning stories for WKMS Public Radio in Murray.