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Anti-trans rhetoric again at forefront for GOP speakers at Fancy Farm picnic

A crowd of people, some with television cameras and others with political signs and garments.
Derek Operle
Fancy Farm attendees hold signs on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023, supporting Ky. GOP gubernatorial nominee Daniel Cameron and decrying Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's decision to take a picture with drag queens in 2020 as well as his support of transgender athletes.

Identity politics and culture war talking points were again at the forefront during the annual Fancy Farm picnic in far western Kentucky Saturday, as the state’s fall campaign season unofficially kicked off in the small Graves County community.

Several Republican candidates for office honed in on anti-transgender rhetoric in their speeches. Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the GOP nominee for Kentucky governor, criticized Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear for his veto earlier this year of a bill that targets transgender students in schools and bans gender-affirming healthcare for minors. He claimed Beshear supports gender-affirming surgeries for minors, something Beshear has refuted on multiple occasions.

“[Beshear] demands that boys play in girls sports. He protects transgender surgeries for kids,” Cameron said.

Cameron also joked about Beshear “auditioning for a job with Bud Light’s marketing team,” making reference to a Bud Light marketing campaign involving transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney that led to a boycott of the beer brand by anti-LGBTQ groups.

The anti-trans rhetoric wasn’t restricted to the top of the ticket. Outgoing state auditor Mike Harmon, a Republican, riffed on Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck” joke formula at the expense of Beshear and the state’s trans community.

“If you want to sell a combined pack of Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head parts and call the toy ‘Gender Neutral Potato Head,’ you might be a Beshear-Biden Democrat.” outgoing auditor Mike Harmon said. “If you've ever vetoed a bill protecting children from mutilation and teachers from being bullied by the education commissioner, you are definitely a Beshear[-Biden Democrat].”

Marshall County resident James Coley said he was attending his first Fancy Farm picnic with his husband. One of the reasons Coley said he’s planning to vote for Beshear in November is because of Beshear’s stances against anti-LGTBQ legislation.

“The majority [of people] supports us just being able to live, being able to love. But there's the far right that uses us as a wedge issue, uses us as pawns, uses our freedom to just be as some currency,” Coley said.

Meanwhile, the incumbent governor highlighted economic development investments in Kentucky during his term, as well as court victories from his term as Attorney General prior to assuming the governor’s office. Beshear, alluding to Mayfield High School’s football team, encouraged voters to let his history speak for itself.

“When you're on a historic winning streak, you don't fire the coach,” Beshear said.

Much of the criticism directed at Beshear surrounded the governor’s policies in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers like Cameron, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican attorney general candidate Russell Coleman, outgoing auditor Mike Harmon and treasurer and auditor candidate Allison Ball criticized Beshear for shutting down non-essential businesses and limiting public gatherings in effort to mitigate the spread of the disease.

Fancy Farm attendee John Shindlebawer, a Cameron supporter, was also critical of business shutdowns at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They shut everything down. And I think it was a huge mistake,” Shindlebawer said. “I think Kentuckians suffered for that.”

Candidates from both sides of the aisle also tried to court the votes of the state’s educators.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Jacquelyn Coleman cast her and Beshear’s administration as “education-first,” and said the two would work to give school teachers’ pay raises if they are elected to another term.

Meanwhile, Cameron criticized some schools as “incubators for liberal and progressive ideas.” He said his administration would support teachers, and make sure schools “are about reading, writing, and math.”
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