LANCASTER — Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams parked his “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” bus on the Lancaster Public Square on Tuesday, but he used a different slogan when discussing his absent running mate, state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer.
“Richie Farmer made his career hitting threes, and I made mine taking charges,” he told residents and business owners.
Williams, who also made stops Tuesday in Lincoln and Mercer counties, will face Louisville businessman Phil Moffett and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw in the Republican gubernatorial primary May 17.
Williams seemed to use his basketball metaphor and bus tour to highlight his resilience amid a swirl of criticism surrounding Farmer.
The former University of Kentucky basketball player refused to participate in a state furlough program and spent thousands of dollars for hotel rooms at the state fair and Boys Sweet 16 basketball tournament.
Williams defended Farmer by touting his success with the Kentucky Proud program, which encourages purchasing locally-grown food.
“Richie Farmer has conducted the most successful economic development program in Kentucky,” he said. “I will compare the stewardship of Richie Farmer to that of (Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial candidate) Jerry Abramson and see who comes out on top.”
Abramson, former Louisville mayor, recently has come under fire for paying his special assistant and personal friend about an $85,000 salary for a part-time job with questionable duties.
Tuesday marked the second time the Williams-Farmer campaign has visited Lancaster without Farmer present to address Abramson’s actions or his own.
In April, Williams visited the city solo because Farmer already had left to campaign with UK fans in Houston, Texas, for the NCAA Final Four. Tuesday, Williams said Farmer was tending to agriculture commissioner’s responsibilities, resulting from heavy rainfall and flooding that’s placing some Kentucky farmers in desperate situations.
Katherine Simpson, 16, left school to try to meet Farmer during the campaign’s April visit and tried again with no success Tuesday at Napier Brothers Clothing.
“I was a little bit sad,” she said. “I wanted to meet him, but it’s OK.”
Other business owners and customers were pleased with Williams’ singular presence.
Danville resident Richard Pitman said the Williams/Farmer ticket already has his vote for the primary, but he was excited to unexpectedly run into Williams at Whitaker Bank.
“I like that,” he said. “The state needs change. We need to create some jobs.”
Williams said that’s exactly what he plans to do by creating a commission to overhaul Kentucky’s tax codes and presenting a single tax bill for the legislature to vote up or down.
Williams also wants to reform education in Kentucky by supporting neighborhood schools — especially in Jefferson County — voluntary charter schools and merit pay for teachers.
On these issues, Williams took a shot at Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat seeking re-election, calling him a “captive and a minion” of Jefferson County schools who is too timid for necessary dramatic change.
“Steve Beshear has refused to lead. He will not follow, so it’s time for him to get out of the way,” Williams said, echoing his original bus tour motto.