By RONNIE ELLIS
There might not have been as many Democrats speaking at Fancy Farm Saturday, but those who showed up at the Graves County Democratic Breakfast Saturday morning were reminded of the fire of Democrats of old.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told a smaller-than-usual crowd, “I’m not ashamed to go vote for Barack Obama. I’m going to pull that lever for Democrats and if he happens to be on it, then he’s going to get my vote.”
All but one Democratic statewide office holder – Secretary of State Alison Grimes – declined to speak this year at Fancy Farm with Obama at the head of the ticket and none of them on the ballot.
Obama is unpopular in Kentucky and is blamed by many for the slowdowns in the coal industry which has been hit hard by market forces – and Stumbo comes from the coal fields.
But that didn’t stop him and former state Auditor Crit Luallen from sounding like traditional Democrats. Both attacked the Republican economic philosophies, defended Obama’s handling of “an economy on the brink of free-fall” as Luallen described it when Obama took office, and went after Rep. Sen. Mitch McConnell and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Luallen said the Republican strategy is to “strike fear and confusion from the federal level down to our state races.” She said McConnell and the Republican Party have distorted the facts on the economy, the federal government’s deficit and Obama’s record.
“If they are going to distort the truth,” Luallen said, “it’s up to us to tell the truth.”
For those reluctant or nervous Democrats passing up Fancy Farm, they might have taken note that Stumbo and Luallen got the loudest and most sustained applause of the morning.
Attorney General Jack Conway and Treasurer Todd Hollenbach also defended Obama’s record in front of the friendly crowd, though neither planned to speak at Fancy Farm where hecklers from both sides show no mercy on speakers from the other party.
Conway read from a passage of a book recounting the lead-up to passage of the Troubled Asset Recovery Program – TARP but more commonly referred to as the “bank bailout” – passed in the waning days of the Bush administration.
He read the passage quoting McConnell saying, “We need to do this,” when Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson laid out the dire financial crisis facing the country in 2008.
Conway said McConnell is “as much the architect of bailouts” as anyone but now is “afraid to stand up and be a man about it because he’s afraid of the tea party.” Conway said McConnell had to be held accountable.
Auditor Adam Edelen and Grimes also spoke at the breakfast, but they concentrated on their jobs and state legislative elections. Grimes fired the crowd up urging them to vote and calling for more efforts to persuade women in Kentucky to register, vote and run for office.
But Stumbo was the featured speaker and he didn’t disappoint. An accomplished stump speaker and storyteller, Stumbo entertained with his stories and criticism of Romney and McConnell.
Romney, Stumbo joked, is having trouble finding a vice president.
“But that’s understandable because he’s never given anyone a job,” he said. He said it’s perplexing that Republicans would ask voters to choose a president who asks the military to protect the country when that candidate “won’t pay his taxes to pay for that.” Romney has so far refused to release more than two years of tax returns, claiming the Obama campaign will sift through them for fodder for attack ads.
And asking “Republicans how to fix the economy is almost like asking a witch doctor to perform heart surgery.”
Stumbo then swung to races closer to home, vowing Republicans will not take control of the state House of Representatives where Democrats currently have a majority 58-41 (with one vacancy).