By RONNIE ELLIS
FANCY FARM —
While much was made of so many Democratic no-shows at the annual political free-for-all here, two Democrats who did show up piqued some interest by political observers.
Former state Auditor Crit Luallen and central Kentucky’s 6th District Congressman Ben Chandler were working the crowd here before the speechifying began. Neither spoke from the speaker’s stand.
Luallen has been mentioned both as a potential challenger in 2014 for Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and for governor in 2015 but recently made it clear her interests lie in Kentucky and not in Washington.
Saturday, between rounds of hand-shaking, Luallen said she’s “received a lot of encouragement” to challenge McConnell but again said her interests are in Kentucky. She said she’s evaluating a run for governor but hasn’t made a decision.
Chandler wasn’t expected at Fancy Farm – far from his district. But he’s been there before while running successfully statewide for auditor and attorney general and unsuccessfully for governor in 2003. Chandler faces a stiff re-election challenge this fall from Republican Andy Barr, who nearly upset Chandler in 2008 during a Republican tide. Chandler escaped with a win of just more than 600 votes.
So showing up at Fancy Farm prompted questions from reporters about whether he is considering a future race for a different office. But Chandler just smiled and said he was visiting friends made over the years at Fancy Farm.
“I wanted to renew some old acquaintances,” he said. “I haven’t been here for a little while and it was time for me to come to western Kentucky and see some friends.”
Chandler’s grandfather, A.B. “Happy” Chandler, began the tradition of political stump speaking at Fancy Farm when he campaigned there in the 1931 gubernatorial primary – and kept coming back as others followed to make their own appeal to voters.
Chandler said he hadn’t conducted a fundraiser while in western Kentucky and deflected questions about running for the senate or governor.
“I have my hands full in this job and with this campaign,” Chandler said. But, he added, when pressed, “There’s no telling what the future could hold.”
Both Democrats said they support the re-election of Democratic President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky.
Luallen forcefully defended Obama’s record as president at the Graves County Democratic Breakfast Saturday morning before Fancy Farm. And Chandler, who in 2008 was one of the first (and few) in Kentucky to endorse Obama, said he still supports him.
“I’ve said all along I support him,” Chandler said. “I’m a Democrat.”