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This Will Be The First Year a Woman of Color Will Speak at Fancy Farm

jenean hampton
Jacob Ryan
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For decades, Kentucky politicians have gone to a church picnic in a small Western Kentucky community to speak before a rowdily partisan crowd.

Practically every major candidate for statewide office in Kentucky has spoken at the Fancy Farm picnic.

And, to the best of anyone's knowledge, none of them has been a woman of color. That changes this weekend.

Jenean Hampton, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, is slated to be the first woman of color to speak at the annual milestone for Kentucky political campaigns.

Part of the reason this milestone is being met fairly late in the game is because people of color have not had a significant presence in statewide politics, said Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville. He said it’s a good move for the Republican Party to have a candidate setting milestones.

“When you start doing things like this you are clearly moving down the right path because people need to see people of color—particularly in this state,” Clayton explained. “We often don’t have African Americans at the statewide level.

Clayton said it’s also rare to see woman of any race running for statewide office. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway also has a woman as a running mate this year: Rep. Sannie Overly.

“Women do not play a huge role and have not played a huge role in politics at the state level in Kentucky,” he said. “Yes, we have had women to pop up here and there, but for the most part that role has been reserved for white males.”

Al Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, said Kentucky has had just a few statewide African-American candidates before, but he explained many were not actively running in time for Fancy Farm.

“Or they had such a small base of support that they weren’t invited,” Cross said.

Mark Wilson who has been coordinating the event for the past 11 years said he can’t remember there ever being a woman of color speaking on the Fancy Farm stage.

Maurice Sweeney was one of the last people of color to speak at Fancy Farm. He spoke as a Democratic primary candidate in 2009 for a U.S. Senate seat.