Even With No Election, Fancy Farm Still A Political Essential

Jul 31, 2013

The Fancy Farm Band polices stump speeches at Fancy Farm. When politicians go long, the bluegrass band fires up.

Politicians and those Kentuckians intrigued with politics will gather at Fancy Farm this Saturday.  Most of the festival’s stump speeches will focus on next year’s senate race.  The Fancy Farm Picnic attracts all kinds of local, state, even national political figures.  But, this year, it’s a sure bet most of the focus will be on Kentucky’s race next year for the U-S Senate.  Joe Gershtenson directs the Kentucky Institute of Public Governance and Civic Engagement at Eastern Kentucky University. 

“Yeah, I don’t think that anybody would see anything other than this race as being the real highlight of this year’s Fancy Farm,” said Gershtenson.

The four candidates speaking at Fancy Farm Saturday are Republican Incumbent Mitch McConnell, Tea Party Challenger Matt Bevin, and Democrats Alison Lundergan Grimes and Ed Marksberry.  The other two Democratic candidates -- University of Louisville professor Greg Leichty and Louisville music promoter Bennie J. Smith -- aren't on the list of speakers.

As Kentucky’s Secretary of State, Lundergan-Grimes could be McConnell’s biggest obstacle to another term. The Lexington Native officially kicked off her campaign this week.  Gershtenson predicts McConnell will try to link Grimes with President Obama, who has never fared well in Kentucky.

“She will have to find a way to deal with that and at the same time she does have to say something about McConnell.  But, I don’t think just saying, oh gosh, the guy’s been in Congress too long will win it for her,” added Gershtenson.

Still, McConnell must ensure the backing of his own party, so first he has to overcome primary opposition from the Tea Party and Louisville Businessman Matt Bevin.  Gershtenson believes national interest in Senator Rand Paul has helped maintain the Tea Party’s influence in the Commonwealth.

“I think the Tea Party interest has really kind of remained much stronger than it might have otherwise because Senator Paul is garnering national attention on a fairly regular basis,” said Gershtenson.

The EKU government professor says the Fancy Farm picnic offers candidates a chance to solicit support and raise campaign donations.  But, he adds, it also can also provide a backdrop for a costly political mistake.