Sold-out Bean Dinner welcomes Krystal Ball and fired-up speakers


This year’s organizers for the Mike Miller Democratic Bean Dinner looked to Washington D.C. for an emcee.

Krystal Ball knew the drill. She chowed down with the crowd last year.

Krystal Ball At Bean Dinner
Krystal Ball emceeing the Mike Miller Bean Dinner

“I want to start the night by saying one thing,” Ball told the gathering of more than 400 Democrats at Kentucky Dam Village State Park. “I have been so awestruck, and the nation has been so awestruck, by the solidarity that they’ve seen in this state.”

Ball co-hosts capital city-based Hill TV’s Rising with Krystal & Buck.

She lived in Louisville before moving back to her native Virginia. But Ball keeps up with Bluegrass State politics.

She shivered with protesting teachers on the Capitol steps last winter. Last month, she had House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins on her show, via Skype.

Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) was in the speakers’ lineup. Others included Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Attorney General Andy Beshear, both from Lexington; First District congressional candidate Paul Walker of Murray; state House hopeful Linda Story Edwards of Benton; and Julie Tennyson, a Paducah resident who is running for the state Senate.

Edwards aims to succeed state Rep. Will Coursey, a Marshall countian who stepped down to run for county judge-executive. Adkins invited him to speak, too.

Ball said she knew “it was disheartening when we lost the governor’s mansion” and “disheartening when we lost the House.”

When GOP Gov. Matt Bevin won in 2015, the Republicans captured every constitutional office except secretary of state and attorney general. Then the Trump tsunami of 2016 swept away a 53-47 Democratic House majority. In February, the Democrats won a special election, whittling the GOP bulge to 63-37.

Despite the Democratic setbacks, “we still had one thing, and that thing was the power of the people,” Ball said. “That thing was the solidarity that brought thousands of people to the Capitol day-after-day” to rally against Republican plans to cut public pensions and education funding.

Ball said that even from Washington and the Old Dominion, she could see “that people were paying attention to what was going on here. They are still paying attention…and I think we are going to shock the heck out of folks this November.”

'People were paying attention to what was going on here (in Kentucky). They are still paying attention...and I think we are going to shock the heck out of folks this November.' – Krystal BallClick To Tweet

More than a few regional and state party pros were shocked that Alonzo Pennington, Ball’s candidate for Congress in the First District—which includes Marshall County—lost the May Democratic primary to Walker, a Murray State University English professor.

A hunting guide-guitarist-singer-songwriter from Princeton, Pennington earned an endorsement from Ball’s People’s House Project. She founded the organization to recruit blue-collar Democratic challengers in Republican districts in Appalachia and the Midwest.

She warmly greeted Walker—and texted “Definitely wishing Paul all the best!!!” from back home in King George, Va.

Walker told everybody that he supported teachers, workers, unions, health care for all, and government policies that help “working families live the American dream.”

Adkins fired up the faithful, predicting that “with your help, we will take back the Kentucky House on Nov. 6.” He said he’s “never seen more energy on the ground than I’m seeing right now….People have had enough and are going to remember in November.”

When Grimes took her turn at the mike, she poked fun at Bevin and Sen. Rand Paul for skipping the Fancy Farm picnic.

The governor, she claimed, was “having a sleepover with the Koch brothers.” Paul was in Russia hunting for a campaign manager, according to Grimes.

She followed with a jab that raised Republican hackles: “Many folks say that Rand Paul can’t be beat. They’re worried he might be too well-liked. I don’t buy that. Just ask his neighbor; he can be beaten.”

Beshear wound up the speech making. Last month, he announced his candidacy for governor next year. Meanwhile, he said serving as attorney general “has been the honor of my lifetime.”

Beshear said he was proud he “took the fight to this administration and opened up the Capitol doors to everyone…and…along with our friends in the FOP and the KEA, we stood up and defeated that sewer [pension] bill.”

The Marshall County Democratic Party sponsors the annual Fancy Farm eve feed. It is named for the late Mike Miller, who was county judge and judge-executive from 1974 until his death at age 70 in 2014.

He was the longest-serving judge in Kentucky history.

The repast began in 1995 with humble ham-seasoned white beans and cornbread as the entree. Last year, the bill-of-fare expanded to include fried fish and hushpuppies.

Ball was a spectator at that 2017 meal, which featured Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, as the keynote speaker.


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Berry Craig
Berry Craig of Mayfield is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.