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On March 22, The Oldham County Republicans had a party – the 2014 Lincoln Day Dinner. As you can imagine, only the true believers turned out for this soirée, which coincidentally was held at a place called Soiree in LaGrange. And turn out they did. About 150 supporters came for food, drink, speechifying and politics – mostly politics.
Political stickers abounded. Just about everyone sported a Mitch McConnell sticker, probably because some was walking around handing them out. There were several others on a few chests. And there was one lonely Matt Bevin sticker. A young fellow was seen briefly wearing the Bevin sticker, but not seen again until after the event when he was outside trying to hand out some Bevin information. There was also a Bevin sign on a truck parked at the periphery of the event lot. I’m not sure if Bevin and or his supporters were banned from the event, (maybe that was the price for getting McConnell there) or there just are not many of his supporters among the mainstream Republicans in Oldham County.
During the evening there were often discussions about people and events of which I was unaware. During these times, I relied on my table mate JD Sparks, Oldham County Magistrate, and Deputy County Chairman to interpret and explain, who and what was going on. Thank you JD.
David Osborne, Oldham County representative to the KY House of Representatives did a nice job of Master of Ceremonies, with a nice mix of sincerity, devotion to the cause, and humor.
The cause of course is for Republicans to gain control of The Presidency, the US Senate, the Kentucky Governorship, and the Kentucky House of Representatives
The audience consisted mostly of elected officials, folks running for office, Party officers, relatives of candidates and by my estimate about 10 people not affiliated with a candidate, or the party.
The star of the event was Mitch McConnell. This was my first experience of seeing Mitch in a relative small group of people. I was pleasantly surprised at how good a retail politician McConnell can be. He worked the room ostensibly alone, although one of his aids, and a couple of Capitol Police agents hovered in the vicinity. I didn’t see the same effort from Massie or Heiner, but I was on the periphery of the room.
I believe McConnell made an effort to meet and shake hands with everyone in the room, including the cooks, the servers, and the facility staff. He went through the line for food, and from vantage point at the next table, ate everything on his plate. Considering that he is probably subjected to this same fare 3 nights a week while campaigning, he either has a stronger constitution than his appearance would suggest, or he leaves every event with his pockets full of chicken and green beans. In this case I believe he ate the food, because it was actually quite tasty.
A brief video presentation full of soaring music, American flags and national monuments preceded McConnell’s talk. The video did its job of getting folks into the right frame of mind to receive his message. McConnell’s message was familiar – “ I need to be reelected and the Senate won for the Republicans so I can lead the senate” – but the presentation was sincere, presented without notes, in front of the podium, and again much better than I expected.
Congressman Thomas Massie was also on the agenda. I’ve been pretty critical of Mr. Massie in the past, but this night, he was funny, self-deprecating, and informative. He seems a pleasant fellow, destined to be reelected this year, and maybe he will begin to work to govern, rather than trying to thwart responsible government, in his new term.
Not to forget the Kentucky Governor’s race, Hal Heiner, currently the only announced candidate for Governor in 2015 gave his well-prepared stump speech. Heiner has taken an early lead in campaigning for Governor because all the Democratic candidates are waiting until after the Senate election in November.
At the beginning and the end of the evening were the usual accolades to local politicians and party functionaries for planning the dinner, and doing good works for the party. There was also pie.
While various cakes were the desert of the evening, there was a pie. Not just an ordinary pie, but a very special pie. This pie – I heard it was blackberry – was paraded around the room while it was auctioned off. I never learned the name of the lady who made the pie, although I understand that she makes one for all 120 county Lincoln Day Dinners in Kentucky. I was also told that last year Oldham County set the record for the price of the pie at $600. This year it went for $1,000. I couldn’t see who bought the pie, and know not where the proceeds go, but someone will be enjoying pie to the tune of over $150.00 a slice.
This was my first Lincoln Day Dinner. While this was a Republican event, Oldham County is run by Republicans, and it was a good opportunity to watch all our local politicians interact. Some are gregarious, some are quiet, some were definitely campaigning, others were not. The only person who directly asked for my vote was Ricky Simmons, candidate for sheriff.
All in all it was about what I expected. I was pleasantly surprised by Mitch McConnell’s friendliness, impressed by David Osborne’s aplomb as MC and admired the courage of the lone Bevin supporter’s brief appearance. And the pie; we cannot forget the pie.
Mike DiGiuro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org