Fancy Farm serves up GOP-heavy lineup

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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On Saturday, much of the commonwealth’s political world is expected to descend on Fancy Farm for the 142nd annual picnic hosted by St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in far western Kentucky. 

“Iowa is to presidential campaigns as Fancy Farm is to Kentucky campaigns,” said Shane Noem, chair of the Kenton County Republican Party. “It’s such a unique event that reminds us of the importance of rural retail politics and adds a bit of much needed levity to what have become tense times politically.”

LINK nky is headed to the event and for some other Northern Kentucky political insiders and observers, it’s an annual pilgrimage. 

“For me, Fancy Farm weekend has become a political family reunion seeing old friends (Republican and Democrat),” Noem said. “It’s the unofficial kick-off to the November election and a great way to get energized for this fall’s elections and the 2023 governor’s race.”

Initially a place where politicians could give stump speeches, the event evolved into a political spectacle where candidates from both sides of the aisle sling proverbial mud at each other. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in the crowd try to holler as loud as possible to drown out the other side’s speakers. 

“I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in one of the most time-honored political traditions in our great Commonwealth,” said Republican Rep. Savannah Maddox of Dry Ridge. She is running for governor in next year’s Republican primary and is set to appear on stage alongside other GOP candidates “I look forward to sharing some exciting campaign news and visiting with folks from all across Kentucky.”

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The picnic is also known for its slew of mutton, pork, and vegetables. 

The pandemic halted the picnic in 2020, but it returned in 2021. Democrats didn’t participate last year due to the rising COVID-19 numbers.

This year, U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker, Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Colmon Eldridge, and 1st District Congressional Candidate Jimmy Ausbrooks will be the lone Democrats in attendance. Governor Andy Beshear previously announced that he would be with his family in Israel this weekend, but has since canceled those plans to continue his focus on recovery efforts in eastern Kentucky which was devastated by a deadly flash flood last week.

This year will bring a bevy of Republican gubernatorial candidates, including Maddox. The crowded GOP field hoping to challenge incumbent Beshear next year includes Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, and Auditor Mike Harmon.

Former local attorney Eric Deters has lobbied to speak at the event but was denied. He says he’s going anyway.

“I am going to Fancy Farm and will give a speech off the back of my pickup truck, and it will be live broadcast out on my platforms,” Deters said. “I’m doing this to make the point that I am the only anti-establishment candidate for governor. It will be the best speech at Fancy Farm since Larry Forgy. I am going to win. The people are going to elect me. The movement is gathering.”

Forgy was a Republican gubernatorial candidate multiple times and was the party’s nominee in 1995, losing to Democrat Paul Patton. He died in January.

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Though there will be much chatter about next year’s gubernatorial race, the U.S. Senate race on the ballot in Kentucky this November is also top of mind.

Incumbent Republican Sen. Rand Paul and challenger Charles Booker are both expected to speak. While Paul’s Fancy Farm appearance is pending, he plans to speak at the GOP Dinner on Friday night. Booker is confirmed to attend. 

“If we’re not in session in Washington, yes,” Paul said when asked if he would be at Fancy Farm.

Here is the expected lineup:  

  • State Sen. Jason Howell (R)
  • State Rep. Richard Heath (R)
  • Auditor Mike Harmon (R)
  • U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker (D)
  • Treasurer Allison Ball (R) 
  • U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R) (pending)
  • Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles (R) 
  • Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) 
  • Auditor Mike Harmon (R) 
  • Rep. Savannah Maddox (R)  
  • U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) (pending)
  • Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge (D)
  • U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R) (pending)
  • U.S. Congressman James Comer, 1st District (R)
  • Congressional Candidate Jimmy Ausbrooks, 1st District (D)
  • Secretary of State Michael Adams (R)

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