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Politicians speak at annual Lincoln Day dinner

By Amanda Manning

 This year’s annual Lincoln Day Republican Dinner brought several notable political figures to Buckner, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Congressman Thomas Massie, Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, Senator Ernie Harris and state representatives. 

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During the three-and-a-half hour program at the John W. Black Community Center, Republican candidates were allowed two-minutes each to speak on behalf of their campaign. 

The vast majority of politicians running in the county are Republicans. Several elected positions, including sheriff, coroner, circuit clerk, La Grange mayor, and multiple magistrate and constable positions, have two Republicans vying for election.

Senator McConnell gave the keynote address, which Congressman Massie followed with another speech. 

Governor Matt Bevin did not attend the event but recorded a video message for the crowd. 

“I was struck by the fact that your starting five in Frankfort involve names like Harris, Osborne, Nemes, Fleming and Miller,” Bevin said in the video. 

“These are guys who are representing you well. You’ve got a great starting five. I want to thank specifically David Osborne, who stepped in to circumstances that he had not anticipated,” he said, referring to Osborne becoming Speaker Pro Tempore on Jan. 3. 

“Thank you for all you do in Oldham County. Thank you for representing the way government should work,” Bevin said at this end of his video. 

At this year’s Lincoln dinner, Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele unveiled a canvas of Abraham Lincoln that will be placed in the Oldham County Fiscal Courthouse. 

The Illinois State Historical Society wants to place a particular portrait of Lincoln in every courthouse. Voegele found that out and gave them a call and asked if Oldham County could have one – they said yes. 

“And I asked my wife Mary Lee, ‘would you be willing to donate a picture of Abraham Lincoln to our courthouse?’” and she agreed,” he explained. “This last Monday we went to Illinois and picked up this canvas of Lincoln.”

The photograph of Lincoln that will eventually hang in the courthouse was taken in Springfield, Ill. on June 3, 1860 before he became president. 

Voegele also announced that he was running for his final term as county judge-executive later in the event.

McConnell’s keynote address

Senator McConnell discussed his career, recent elections, the courts and tax reform during his keynote address that was met with several claps by the Oldham County Republican Party. 

McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, the United States Secretary of Transportation, also attended the function. Chao she didn’t make a speech, but several politicians spoke highly of her and her work on infrastructure during the event. 

 “You all know I have an extra job in addition to the one you all give me – I have this other job as Senate majority leader and I had to wait eight years to get that job,” McConnell said during his speech. “I didn’t want it to only last two years, so clearly I was interested in whether we could hold the senate. It never occurred to me that maybe we’d also win the presidency.”

At one point during his speech, McConnell asked where Oldham County Clerk Julie Barr was, and then called her, “the tormenter of Alison Grimes on virtually every issue.”

The Senate majority leader also addressed what his job is like for him. 

“I’m often asked what being the majority leader of the Senate is like,” he said. “The best answer I’ve been able to come up with is it’s a little bit like being a grounds keeper at a cemetery. Everybody’s under you, but nobody’s listening.” 

He also discussed his duties and some of the decisions he’s made. “There is one thing the majority leader of the senate gets to do that’s really important and that’s the schedule,” McConnell said. 

“The single most consequential decision I’ve made in my political life is a decision not to do something,” he said. “It was little bit of queasiness on some of our members. That decision was made before I knew Donald Trump was going to be the nominee.”

“The other decision I made not to do something last year was not to do many lifetime appointments in the last two years of Barack Obama. I decided six years was long enough,” he added.

McConnell spoke to the crowd about the impact on changing court appointees and the overall court system. 

“Changing the court system, for as long as Donald Trump is president, and as long as we’re in the majority of the U.S. senate, is my top priority,” McConnell said. “Will we get another Supreme Court appointment? I don’t know. I’m confident if we do, he will appoint the right kind of person.”

He stressed the important of those court appointees to the crowd. “The one thing that any president can do that reaches far into the future is the courts. If you pick the right kind of people, you can have a huge impact on what kind of America we’re going to have far beyond your term,” he said. 

“So what I do, in the Senate, unlike Congress and the House where you can do things rapidly, you can’t do much rapidly in the Senate. Watching the senate is a little bit like watching paint peel,” he said.

McConnell also looked back at his political career in the Senate.

“We’ve had Democrat presidents and Republican presidents,” McConnell said. “One of the things about being there for a while is that I can judge a good year when I see it. 2017 was the most consequential year right of center in the three decades I’ve been in Washington,” he said. 

Similar to Bevin, McConnell also recognized Oldham Countians, and then turned to elections. 

“If every county were like Oldham County, we wouldn’t have any problems,” McConnell said toward the end of his speech. 

“It’s a great opportunity to save this country from the left. The left is more vigorous than any time in my lifetime.”