GOP meet for annual pre-election picnic Saturday at Farmer’s Market Pavilion

Ryan Quarles, the state Ag Secretary, speaks to the local GOP picnic Saturday at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion while other candidates look on. From left, state Auditor Mike Harmon; state Rep. Chad McCoy; coroner candidate Doug Alexander; magistrate candidate Trey Bradley; state Sen. Jimmy Higdon, and jailer candidate James Beery. Photo by Sylvia Horlander.


Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Monday, Oct. 29, 2018 — A crowd of about 55 people attended the annual GOP fall picnic Saturday afternoon in downtown Bardstown at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion.

Despite the cool and cloudy weather, local GOP supporters, candidates and their families, and fans of Layla Spring gathered to attend the picnic in historic downtown Bardstown.

As one would expect in the middle of a General Election, the candidates each spoke — all 19 of them — starting with state Rep. Chad McCoy, who is seeking a second term.

Layla Spring, the 17-year-old American Idol Top 15 finalist, sings to her mom, Chasity Wright. Spring performed before and after state and local candidates spoke at the GOP picnic Saturday at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion. Photo by Sylvia Horlander.


“If you look back at what we’ve done the last two years (state government with Republican majority in both branches), we have record investment, highest per-pupil funding for education, fully funded pensions, lowered income taxes, record low unemployment, and wages up 5 percent in Nelson County,” he told the crowd.

The self-employed attorney said he understood how difficult change can be.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of angry people out there who are frustrated. Moving forward, I hope people will not be scared or nervous.”

Trey Bradley, candidate for 5th district magistrate, started his speech with a round of applause for Robert Augustine, the Nelson County GOP chairman, who is stepping down. The first time political candidate told the crowd to tell everyone they know to vote on Nov. 6th.

James Beery, candidate for jailer, said if elected, he looks forward to giving inmates opportunity for self-improvement, and to participate in worthwhile programs, with the ultimate goal of protecting Nelson County citizens.

Philip Bischoff, candidate for 3rd district magistrate, said there are a lot of challenges, and therefore, lots of good people are needed to help with local leadership.

Nicholas Shanks, candidate for Bardstown City Council, was the only city council candidate who attended the GOP picnic. Photo by Sylvia Horlander.


“We need to get the county going in the ‘right’ direction, and Republicans are ‘right’ for the job,” he said.

Kelly Pulliam, candidate for county clerk, prided himself on “knocking on every door himself” in Nelson County, saying people are telling him of the changes they want to see in the county clerk’s office. Pulliam stressed the addition of Saturday hours, an issue he has run on since the beginning of his campaign.

Don Thrasher, candidate for judge executive, thinks incumbent Dean Watts “might be surprised on the evening of Nov. 6th, referencing Thrasher’s hopeful win. Thrasher said it’s time for good things to happen in Nelson County, adding that Republicans are “the right kind of change”.

Thrasher predicts the election will be “take back our county,” referencing that Republicans can change the county for the better. Thrasher thanked state Sen. Jimmy Higdon for all of his political advice and guidance.

State Sen. Jimmy Higdon is seeking his (?) term in office. He joked that his friend and state auditor Mike Harmon “tells the worst jokes.” Higdon said all of the candidates have worked hard, and added that “we need to really, really, really work harder the next 10 days.”

Higdon gave credit to those families and friends who help support each candidate.

“We (candidates) can’t do it alone,” he said. “Help us win.”

Todd Harper, candidate for sheriff, said the last five years in Nelson County have been “horrific.”

“The sheriff’s office needs new, transparent leadership, and is burdened to do so,” he said.

Harper is a first-time political candidate and said campaigning is not easy. He said he’s running for sheriff because he believes the office is ready for new leadership and transparency, and called himself “the one to give it.”

Doug Alexander, candidate for coroner, wants to “make the red wave happen.” Alexander thanked the other candidates for their support and also his family, including his wife, Brenda Alexander, President of the Nelson County Republican Women.

Carl Nett, candidate for Kentucky secretary of state, asked the audience who was tired of Alison Lundergan Grimes as secretary of state, and responded with, “The good news is that she’s been replaced by the constitution.”

Nett is a former Secret Service officer, and a former CIA contractor. Nett showed his lighthearted, humorous side and referenced his last name “like the U.K. basketball net, with two t’s.”

Michael Adams, another candidate for secretary of state, is also running to replace Alison Lundergan Grimes. Adams said he is a lifelong Republican, even though he grew up with Democratic parents in McCracken County. Adams worked in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department, and is general counsel for the Republican Governors Association. Governor Matt Bevin appointed Adams to the Kentucky State Board of Elections. He has since had to step down because of his run for Secretary of State.

Kentucky Auditor Mike Harmon did tell a joke, as requested by an attendee and after Sen. Higdon joked that he told “the worst jokes.”

Harmon’s joke was about “a fellow who traveled the world and stumbled into a cannibal bar, who saw that a politician was available for purchase.”


“You ever try to clean one of them things?”

On a more serious note, Harmon said, “You always hear that this is the most important election ever.” “Well, this is.”

Harmon pointed to the addition of billions of state dollars allocated to education, pensions, and investments, because of Republicans. Harmon told voters to look at results, not political rhetoric.

Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell also came to town. Shell immediately started praising Rep. Chad McCoy and Sen. Jimmy Higdon, calling them each “one of the best.”

Shell said he was at the picnic in his capacity as Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign chairman for 2020. Shell praised President Donald Trump with selecting conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

“The political mob is coming, but know it’s mobs versus jobs,” he said. “The Democrats want to resist, and we’re (Republicans) are getting results.”

Agricultural Secretary Ryan Quarles bragged on Nelson County for its growing bourbon industry.

“How appropriate for us to be supporting local farmers at a Farmers Market for our campaign rally!”

Quarles told the crowd he’s been to 114 events for candidates this year.

“We (Republicans) are making a difference in the swamp in D.C.”

Quarles said he’s honored to serve on President Trump’s Agricultural Committee to help reduce red tape.

Nicholas Shanks was the only candidate for Bardstown City Council to attend the picnic. Shanks is proud to be a U.S. Army veteran and says he wants to make Bardstown and Nelson County a better place to live. The 32-year-old wants to work on infrastructure to keep up with growth, and wants more family activities and after school programs.

Shanks wants to help fix the drug problem in Bardstown, saying, “ti wasn’t the town he grew up in, and he doesn’t want it to be yours either.”

Shanks is a quality engineer and attended Elizabethtown Community and Technical College for industrial maintenance.

Jason Floyd, a write-in candidate for the Bardstown Independent School District, says he’s heard many people say they are tired of the same options for school board, so he decided to file to run.

“If you are looking for answers about why your taxes keep going up, and about the political rhetoric in schools, I’m the guy to talk to.”

Judge Debra Lambert, candidate for Kentucky Supreme Court, has been on the Court of Appeals for four years. Lambert told locals she loves coming to Nelson County and was “blessed to carry the county by 65% and a total of 21 counties in May’s primary.”

Lambert worked to bring the Court of Appeals to Nelson County, when she heard cases earlier this year. Lambert is the only candidate in the race to be recommended by Kentucky Right to Life and also has the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police. Lambert said she has passion for the job, and wants to serve with honesty, integrity and justice for all.

Bill Polyniak, candidate for agriculture commissioner, is President of Kentucky Cannabis Company. Polyniak said his company sources the best hemp in the U.S., which is brought to Kentucky, distributed in every Kentucky county, every state and also to military bases overseas. Polyniak wants to expand hemp cultivation, and said Kentucky farmers shouldn’t be hurt by “the swamp in D.C.” According to Polyniak, the hemp laws and regulations affect his son, who has seizures.

Brenda Alexander, president of the Nelson County Republican Women’s Club, thanked those who attended Saturday’s picnic at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion. From left, magistrate candidate Phillip Bishoff, county clerk candidate Kelly Pulliam; sheriff candidate Todd Harper, and judge executive candidate Don Thrasher. Photo by Sylvia Horlander.


Circuit Court Judge Dan Ballou has been on the bench for 16 years and is also running for a seat on Kentucky’s Supreme Court. The former sergeant and retired major in the Marine Corps says he “doesn’t take himself that serious.” But, he does “take his duty and oath with the utmost seriousness”, saying it’s easy: “Do your duty, no matter what”.

Ballou joked that he won’t blame the Russians if he doesn’t win. Ballou has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

Local party changes are coming Chairman Robert Augustine announced his resignation. In a public letter, Augustine didn’t say why he announced he was leaving the day before the annual GOP picnic and so close to the General Election, but he told Nelson County Gazette and WBRT Radio that “there is never a good time to announce the leave.”

Augustine said he wants to spend more time with his family and in his church.

“Throughout my years as chair since 2012, none of the events we put on would have been possible without the help of every single person involved,” he said.

Augustine also said he “may or may not be present when the party names a new chair.” His last day is November 30th.



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