Louisville Magazine

OCT 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/388156

Contents of this Issue


Page 37 of 172

LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.14 35 By Anne Marshall We must look pathetic — 20 reporters and photographers waiting outside a Dollar General in August's 80-degree late-morning heat. We arrange ourselves under an arthritic claw of tree branch- es ofering knobby knuckles of shade. Earlier in the day, young volunteers in royal-blue "A14" shirts pounced upon anyone with a reporter's notebook, sharing a version of insider goods: "Of the record, there's going to be a parade to welcome Alison Lundergan Grimes to Fancy Farm. Keep it under wraps. 11:30. Meet at the Dollar General." So here we are, waiting. Today marks the 134th Fancy Farm picnic, a day that combines 19,000 pounds of smoked meat with folksy political pandering and aggressive stump speeches. Candidates take to a stage built to mimic a red-brick porch and deliver zingy one-liners about their opponents. Before them, a rowdy clutch of the electorate, dressed in blue or red T-shirts, stands ft to heckle. Tis gathering isn't representative of Kentucky's undecided, a slim estimated 8 to 15 percent of voters. Tese are party loyalists. Union reps packing "Ditch Mitch" signs. A man in Tea Party regalia juggling a Diet Rite and megaphone, into which he yells, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the IRS has got to go!" Two middle-aged women bantering between bites of barbecue. "Business professors tend to support conservative candi- dates. Liberal arts support liberals," one woman says. "Well, we can do away with liberal arts," her friend replies. "Tese sandwiches are good." It's 11:50. Still no parade. Sensing our salty, weeping pores, metallic country bugs nip at our brows and ankles. "Sweat bees," a bald reporter moans, swatting his forehead. I lend my bug spray to a writer from D.C. publication Te Hill. Tough no one says it, there's a collective frown among us: Why are we waiting for this? Because it's some- thing. Something isn't substance, but it's something. At 11:55, a crowd emerges up the road. Tree horns and a snare drum play "When the Saints Go Marching In." Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, wears her standard outdoor-event uniform — jeans and brown cowboy boots. She is surrounded by family and other Democrats, includ- ing Gov. Steve Beshear. Photographers are left to madly backpedal in front of her to get their shots. "Happy Fancy Farm!" yells Grimes, who's tall and attractive, with an athletic build. Te 35-year-old waves her arms, frst left, then right, left, right, over and over again. "Welcome to Mitch McConnell's retirement party!" she says, beaming, softening her often-intense face. When serious, Grimes' features — close-set eyes and strong jaw- line — resemble her feisty dad, Jerry Lundergan, a former state representative and Kentucky Democratic Party chair. Supporters cheer her on. As the parade walks onto the picnic grounds' bristle grass, a chant erupts: "I believe that she will win!" At this point, the frst weekend in August, the race is neck and neck. Grimes and her entourage end up in an ashy hut with a long yellow table. Men are hacking into slabs of pork and mutton. Grimes dons black rubber gloves and a blue apron. She pushes her thick auburn-brown hair between her shoulder blades and picks up a meat cleaver. "What time did y'all get here this morning?" she asks the work- ers, before chopping at meat lying in front of her. Te former college sorority president is a toucher, a hugger, a close-talker — a smile and squeeze for willing takers. "You won't fnd anyone more sincere or more down to earth," says Grimes' oldest of fve sisters, Alissa Tibe. "We always knew she'd do something really great and really cool." Te Grimes style difers from her opponent, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Today he will swoop in and out of Fancy Farm like an OB/GYN at birthing time, arriving shortly before his speech and exiting once he delivers it. Grimes changes to a sleeveless navy dress with four large buttons down the front for her Fancy Farm speech. At the podium, she opens a white binder and punches her words for exactly the eight minutes allotted. "Mitch McConnell doesn't care. I DO!" she cries. Tunderous boos from McConnell supporters don't shake her. Her best lines: "Tirty-fve is my age. Tat's also Sen. Mitch McConnell's approval rating." Ten there's the one that makes it into the New York Times: "If Mitch McConnell were a TV show, he'd be Mad Men: treating women unfairly, stuck in 1968 and ending this season!" Fancy Farm is my frst of six stops on the Grimes cam- paign trail. Pundits and political reporters say it's a good show for her. But they repeat other things too. She's evasive on policy questions, adhering to talking points, a bit of a fuzzy character. Even a Grimes supporter passing out "Al- ison" stickers at Fancy Farm acknowledges the candidate's vagueness. "Your number-one objective is to get someone to vote for you," says Saundra Ardrey, an outgoing 60-year- old from Bowling Green who is also the head of West- ern Kentucky University's political science department. Six campaign stops, 16 minutes and 20 seconds with Alison Lundergan Grimes.

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