A Transylvania University Professor is calling Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer is about as "dumb as a brick." Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson says Farmer's lieutenant governor candidacy is plagued by "rock star baggage."
Farmer, who made his name in Kentucky as a high school "Mr. Basketball" and as one of the University of Kentucky "Unforgettables" in the early 1990's, is under intense scrutiny as the running mate of GOP primary frontrunner David Williams.
The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner has now picked up on the narrative. In a blog post Wednesday quickly desseminated by the Democratic Governor's Association, Weiner says Farmer is now a defense liability.
Just last week, Famer calmly responded to a litany of questions from reporters, defending hotel stays in Louisville and Lexington because he was working long hours promoting the "Kentucky Proud" program and carrying out his duties as agriculture commissioner. Farmer also explained why he and his staff attended a conference at a Caribbean resort and argued that criticism of his purchase of new ag department SUV's during tight budget times was unfounded because it was necessary and his department's vehicle fleet is run more efficiently than other Kentucky agencies.
“There seems to be a story about me, everyday,” Farmer said, “but I think it's aggravating that the way that it gets out there is not true. All of those things, they don't print all the facts so it's aggravating, but I have not had no reconsideration about being on the ticket.”
Also Wednesday, the Herald-Leader reported that Farmer failed to report personal use of his state vehicle for tax purposes. An agriculture department spokesman said that Farmer had reported the personal mileage within the agriculture department, but that a clerical worker neglected to pass on the figures to the Personnel cabinet.
As Farmer faces the rigors and scrutiny of a gubernatorial campaign, it remains to be seen how voters will respond. Farmer is nearly twenty years removed from wearing a Wildcat uniform, yet Big Blue fans may perceive the criticism of Farmer as an attack on one of their own.
Or, the negative press could dull Farmer's luster.
"We all thought him getting Farmer as a running mate was a coup,” Grayson told the Washington Post, “People who don’t ordinarily pay a lot of attention to politics pay attention when Richie Farmer is around. But, when you get the rock star, you get some of the rock star baggage.”
In response to Transylvania University professor Don Dugi's comment that Farmer is "about as dumb as a brick," campaign manager Scott Jennings fired back to the Post:
"Certainly, the level of political discourse in this country is elevated by the learned Mr. Dugi’s pompous insults. Commissioner Farmer has a degree from the University of Kentucky and achieved a double-major in Agriculture Economics and Agribusiness Management. Mr. Dugi reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘critic’ who is too ‘cold and timid’ to be in the arena himself, but rather spends his time criticizing those who are bold enough to put their name on a ballot and actually stand for election.”