While the Harlan County Democratic Party hosted the rally for all party nominees, it was Chandler who attracted the most attention and received numerous rounds of applause during his time on the platform.
Alice Baesler, Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner, also spoke at the rally. The former Kentucky Agriculture Department employee and wife of former Lexington mayor and 6th District Congressman Scotty Baesler, faces former University of Kentucky basketball player Richie Farmer in the November election.
It was the race for governor, however, that interested many Harlan County Democrats who attended the rally. A standing ovation was given when Chandler arrived, and several more outbreaks of enthusiastic cheers sounded from the gathering when Chandler took center stage.
"You're looking at someone who's for Harlan County," Chandler said. "I see some here in the crowd tonight who were my friends before I was born... Ernie Fletcher don't know you. I'd be surprised if he's ever been to Harlan County."
Chandler, who was introduced by state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, referred to his grandfather, former governor A.B. "Happy" Chandler, several times during his speech. Harlan is one of several mountain areas where "Happy" had considerable support during his two terms as governor, according to Chandler.
While such election issues as education, health care and the need for jobs were touched upon by Chandler, it was his promise to see that the proposed U.S. 421 (Tony Turner Memorial Highway) would become a reality during his time in office that generated the loudest response. He warned of his opponent's intentions, making mention of Fletcher's future visit to Harlan County and what Chandler called his attempt to "buy us cheap."
"But we need to hold out," he said. "Hold out for someone who cares for Harlan County. You have my commitment that I will put you first."
Before introducing Chandler, Mongiardo also mentioned U.S. 421.
"With Ben Chandler as your next governor, you'll have a commitment for U.S. 421 to be on this year's road plan," Mongiardo said. "But if this is going to happen, we have to win this thing, and we have to win it big...Tell your family, friends and co-workers how important of a race this is."
Chandler also talked about the state's loss of jobs, high cost of prescription drugs and low teacher wages. He assured the crowd he would endorse a financial plan that would include a large pay raise for teachers, he would revise the state's economy by creating 100,00 new jobs by the end of his first term, and that he would oppose any efforts to reduce or redirect coal severance tax dollars.
"There's been difficult times in Harlan County," Chandler said. "There's been a lot of sons and daughters who have had to leave. I don't think there's a family in Harlan County who hasn't had a member whose had to leave to find work. There's not a lot of opportunity here. That's why we need that road (U.S. 421) and better employment."
During her time on the platform, Baesler said if elected as Kentucky's next agriculture commissioner, she would aggressively seek new markets, develop an agritourism plan across the commonwealth, and promote agriculture and environmental education.
Baesler first started working on her beef and tobacco farm when her husband took office. She received high acclaim when she took her farming experience to Cuba in 2001 with "Women in Agriculture," a state group she founded. That visit led to a $7 million agreement for the country to purchase its agriculture products from Kentucky.
Baesler talked of the "tremendous potential" that exists for Harlan County in the wood products industry.
"This area stands to benefit greatly from a viable, quality furniture factory," she said. "We've got the resources here, we just need the production."