At Kentucky’s kickoff to the 2011 fall elections, independent gubernatorial candidate Gatewood Galbraith called Democratic Governor Steve Beshear’s speech the worst in the Fancy Farm picnic’s 131-year history.
During this year’s political event, where onlookers openly heckle candidates during their remarks, Beshear attempted to bypass the heated rhetoric that is customary at the gathering by discussing his recent visit with troops serving in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
The decision silenced GOP hecklers but left many Democratic supporters in the crowd uncertain how to react as the governor used his allotted time to recognize military veterans in the audience and lead the crowd in a chant to symbolically applaud the troops overseas.
Beshear said he was prepared to deliver a political speech, but after meeting with the troops he wanted to focus on their heroic service to the country instead.
“My heart and mind are thousands of miles away with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And my friends, there are a lots things more important than partisan politics and that is one of them,” he said.
Other Democratic officials later praised Beshear’s choice of words, however, Galbraith, who is a former Marine, took to the lectern and slammed Beshear’s anti-Fancy Farm speech as “pathetic” and delivered what many considered to be one of the better addresses of the day.
“Governor Beshear that was the worst darn speeches I ever heard anybody give. For a person who’s supposed to be trying to come up with solutions to Kentucky’s problems for you to go over there and try to hide behind the bodies of our young men and women in the military,” said Galbraith. “I’ve got an honorable discharge from the Marines and I was highly offended by it.”
Leading Republican challenger David Williams by 24 points in the latest poll, Beshear has been jogging through the campaign and many considered Saturday’s speech to be a political punt. Seizing on the governor’s apprehension, Galbraith delivered a stinging rebuke of Beshear’s decision to highlight the troops at a traditionally political event.
“The reason you did that was because you were too damn cowardly to go down there and congratulate the Navy SEALs at Ft. Campbell when you had the chance. And we were slamming you heavily and you arranged this trip to go over there to try and buy yourself out of the predicament you put in,” he said. “That’s like trying to buy a room full of flowers for your girl after you been caught cheating. You should have used that time to come up here and talk about solutions to Kentucky’s problems, not what your false patriotism is.”
Williams said Beshear was dodging a chance to defend his record before the more than 10,000 people who attended the annual get-together in Graves County.
“You know the political season has started and if I was Steve Beshear, I wouldn’t want to talk about my record either. The old lawyers used to say, if you have the facts beat on the facts. If you have the law, beat on the law. If you have neither beat on the table and it looks like Governor Beshear has chose to beat on the table,” he said.
During his speech, the state Senate President pounced on familiar put downs and advocated a change to the state’s tax system while focusing heavily on the poor economy, namely the 9.6 percent unemployment rate. Williams added he would be a pro-life governor, protect voter’s Second Amendment rights and fight against federal regulations.
But Galbraith didn’t spare Williams any criticisms either, telling the GOP nominee he has no chance of winning this November given his unpopularity in the state. The perennial candidate told the crowd his campaign is against mountaintop removal and furloughing state employees to balance the budget, adding he supports freezing tuition rates and reforming the tax code.
Polls show Galbraith carrying 10 percent of likely voters, which observers note could make him a spoiler in a tighter contest. The Lexington attorney is making his fifth bid for governor and is running with political consultant Dea Riley of Shelbyville.