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Kentucky Ham Breakfast Features Heated Politics, Past and Present

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A country ham was auctioned off for $400,000 and Kentucky politicians turned up the heat Thursday as campaigns near the 60-day mark before Election Day.

This year’s Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast & Auction was Democrat Steve Beshear’s last as governor, and he used the event to publicize economic successes over the course of his administration.

He used his speech to recap a Deloitte study released earlier this year that touted 12,000 jobs created since the state expanded Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. The study also estimated a $30 billion economic impact for Kentucky over eight years, Beshear noted.

The governor has stood by the report, which has been questioned by Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Some people just can’t help themselves, but the fact is Kentucky is back,” Beshear said, framing the critiques as the products of campaign “silly season.”

Beshear also used the event to throw his support behind the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Jack Conway, praising Conway’s negotiation for additional settlement money from a lawsuit against tobacco companies.

McConnell also spoke at the event and notably did not mention Republican nominee Bevin — his 2014 Republican Senate primary opponent — during his speech. McConnell left the event after his speech but gave an abbreviated temperature reading of the gubernatorial race for reporters.

“My impression is it’s a very close race,” McConnell said.

McConnell will be attending a closed-door fundraiser for the Bevin campaign in Lexington on Friday.

During his speech, McConnell used the opportunity to briefly rebut Beshear’s positive report about the Medicaid expansion in Kentucky and to tease him for leaving office at the end of the year.

Beshear challenged McConnell for his Senate seat in 1996.

“Higher premiums, higher co-payments, higher deductibles, lost jobs, and a big bill coming to state government for Medicaid expansion in a couple years, so there certainly are differences in opinion about just how good that was for Kentucky and America,” McConnell said.

“So Steve, this is apparently your last Kentucky Farm Bureau breakfast," he said. "Enjoy your retirement. I’ll be back next year.”

In the gubernatorial race, Conway and Bevin criticized each other for being too much of an outsider and too much of an insider, respectively.

“He has no idea whatsoever how to build consensus,” Conway said of Bevin. “He doesn’t have the relationships in Frankfort. He doesn’t know the system well enough. He is ill-prepared to be governor of Kentucky. He may be the most ill-prepared person to be governor of Kentucky in a long, long time.”

Bevin said: “I think Jack Conway has been in Frankfort pretty much his entire adult life. And so if people want somebody that’s not a career politician, they have that option in this race.”

(Photo by Ryland Barton)

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.