Tribune-Courier News Reporter
As republicans and democrats gathered at separate locations Friday night in hopes of seeing their respective candidates for the Senate seat in the 2014 general election, the Marshall County Republican Party was left disappointed, as their champion, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, didn’t attend the event.
McConnell, who was slated to attend the event, had to back out at the last minute.
The republican dinner hosted at the Calvert City Civic Center, known as the Night Before Fancy Farm, was almost at capacity with more than 100 people in attendance.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Dam State Resort Park Convention Center, which hosted the 18th annual Marshall County Bean Dinner, was filled to capacity with supporters of McConnell’s challenger, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. There was standing room only at the democratic dinner when Grimes arrived to speak.
Susanna French, vice chair of the Marshall County Democrats from Benton, said she was appreciative that Grimes could attend their pre-Fancy Farm Picnic event.
“I think it’s great she could attend an event like this,” she said. “Fancy Farm is so widespread and this event is so local. It’s our biggest event before Fancy Farm.”
French said Grimes had a youthful energetic ability to bring a new generation to politics.
“Personally, I believe that her fresh face to politics is what most people are looking for,” she said. “Most people are looking for a change.”
Both dinners started at 6 p.m. on Friday with local-Republican leaders beginning their speeches around 7 that night.
Bobby Cole, of Gilbertsville, Ky., said he was disappointed to learn McConnell was unable to attend the event, but said he appreciated all of the senator’s efforts in Washington, D.C.
“He’s done a lot for Kentucky and the whole nation,” he said. “He put forth an effort to keep USEC in Paducah, and even though he didn’t succeed I appreciate his effort.”
Cole said he was going to continue voting for McConnell as long as he keeps up the great work he has been doing in the capital.
Alison Watson, vice chair of the Marshall County Republicans from Benton, said the national anthem at the event prior to the speeches and said during an interview that she is especially proud of McConnell and the unity between him and Rand Paul, Kentucky’s other senator.
“They’re working to support constitutional values,” she said. “It’s original intent is important. He’s shown that he is not in favor of Obamacare, which is important to me, and he’s taken a stand to legalize hemp in Kentucky and the nation. Something I believe could be an economic boom for the state and country.”
Noted speakers at the republican dinner included Paducah’s Mayor Gayle Kayler, Mayfield’s Mayor Teresa Cantrell and Marshall County Commissioner Misti Drew.
Speakers at the democratic dinner – only 20-minutes driving distance from the republican’s dinner – included Representative Will Coursey, Attorney General Jack Conway, Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, Auditor Adam Edelen, Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo and Grimes.
Danny Ross, from Louisville, Ky., said he’s been making the trip to western Kentucky for the bean dinner and the Fancy Farm Picnic for more than 30 years.
“I come to these events to support my party,” he said. “It’s time for a change. Mitch has forgotten about Kentucky – he’s got everything deadlocked.”
Ross said one of the biggest problems he sees with McConnell is that the senator isn’t producing results in Washington, D.C.
“People want something to produce and he’s not doing anything up there,” he said. “Anything Obama wants Mitch is opposed to. It’s time for new blood.”
While attendees of each dinner were passionate about their candidates, it appeared that both political parties were anxious to hear the speeches Saturday morning at the Fancy Farm Picnic.