Republicans running for governor in 2023 took the stage at Kentucky’s biggest political event Saturday, criticizing Governor Andy Beshear’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic while lending support to the Democratic governor’s recovery efforts in the wake of historic floods and hurricanes.
While his rivals targeted him, Bashir spent the day comforting families displaced by flash floods that swept the Appalachian region more than a week ago, killing 37. Bashir visited two government parks where some of the suddenly homeless had taken refuge.
Bashir wrote on social media: “Today I’m in state parks, spending time with our families in eastern Kentucky who have been displaced by catastrophic floods. These Kentuckians have gone through the unimaginable. My priority is to be there for them.”
Last December, killer tornadoes swept through parts of western Kentucky. The political spokesperson spoke at the annual Fancy Farm outing – the traditional start of the fall campaign – about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Mayfield, which was hit directly by a hurricane.
Living up to the event’s reputation for violent attacks, Republicans wanting to oust Bashir have targeted the governor’s restrictions on businesses and gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor said his actions saved lives at a perilous time when vaccines were not available. The state’s Republican-led legislature has curbed the power to make virus-related policy in the state in a case that was settled by the state Supreme Court.
Ryan Quarles, the nominee for Republican governor, referred to Bashir as the “lockdown governor.”
“Our economy has shut down,” said Quarles, the state’s agriculture commissioner. “It shut down ‘mom and pop’ stores. It killed countless jobs and kept big box stores open.
He added, “People, just because we have experienced a global pandemic does not mean that our rights, liberties, and liberties should be thrown out the window.”
In his speech, Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Colmon Elridge came to the defense of Bashir, who consistently receives strong approval ratings from Kentucky residents in opinion polls. Elridge praised Bashir for leading the recovery effort in tornado-ravaged western Kentucky and said he would do the same for flood victims in the state’s Appalachian region.
“Once again, our governor shows through his actions how we appear in moments of devastation and accept our fellow Kentuckians, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Kentuckians,” Elridge said.
Bashir was already committed not to attend the country’s first political event. The governor initially planned to visit Israel which coincided with the luxurious farm outing. That trip was canceled after massive flooding hit eastern Kentucky.
The luxury farm scene was taken over by Republicans – reflecting the Republican Party’s dominance of the election. The event is a rite of passage for statewide candidates, who are tested in stump-style speeches in the August heat as they face taunts and shouts from supporters of the other party.
The political attacks were punctuated by calls for continued public support for people who are rebuilding from hurricanes and facing the same daunting task in flooded areas.
We may share some laughs today, but whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, know we’re with you. When natural disasters happen, we take off our party hats and root each other out. We help reform and we help rebuild “.
Cameron then turned to promoting his candidacy. He praised his endorsement of former President Donald Trump and his work as the state’s attorney general in defending Kentucky’s anti-abortion laws and fighting the Biden administration’s policies in court.
“I am the best candidate and the only candidate who can beat Andy Beshear next fall,” Cameron said.
Two other GOP gubernatorial candidates also provided interventions to the public and to the statewide television audience who watched – State Auditor Mike Harmon and State Representative Savannah Maddox.
Absent from Saturday’s political speech was Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate. A mainstay of the outing for decades, McConnell enjoys verbal fights but missed the event due to Senate duties. In a Senate address Saturday, McConnell said the federal role in the long recovery of flood-affected areas will grow once rebuilding begins.
“Soon I will be visiting the area myself to meet with flood victims and hear their concerns,” McConnell said. “And then I will take what I hear from my constituents back to Washington and ensure that we stand by them as we rebuild bigger and better than before.”
Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief funds to hard-hit Kentucky counties.