Mike Murphy and Shirley Menendez at meeting in Paducah
(Paducah KY - January 2, 2016) - When we accepted an invitation to attend an early morning meeting of the McCracken County Democratic Executive Committee, Ivan and I had low expectations. A Saturday morning of a holiday weekend seemed an inauspicious time for a political meeting - especially for Democrats who had just lost the governor's race and all but two constitutional offices.
We went expecting a handful of dispirited party faithful. What we found was a standing room only fired up crowd from around the Purchase. Leaders Mike Murphy and Ron Morgan led a lively discussion that began with "what happened" and ended with plans and promises to coordinate and cooperate.
One McCracken Countian put it mildly "We can't go much further down. It's up from here."
There was bad news: the Kentucky Democratic Party is broke. The KDP started 2015 in debt, borrowing $250,000 to support its candidates. That debt has not been settled. According to a story in the Courier Journal, the KDP opened a line of credit with Farmers Bank of Frankfort. http://www.courier-journal.com/story/politics-blog/2015/01/13/debt-kentucky-democrats-contributions-campaign-donors/21692747/
Losing the governor's office means losing its chief fundraiser. A sitting governor can pick up his phone and generate donations. If Matt Bevin is willing to do that at all, it won't be for the Democratic Party.
The current chair, Patrick Hughes of Northern Kentucky, a Conway ally, will stay on until a new chair is elected. The new chair won't take office until spring 2016. Jerry Lundergan is rumored to be the leading candidate for that job. Lundergan is the father of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, one of two Democrats to win in November. The other Democrat, Andy Beshear, will be sworn in as attorney general on January 4th. His father also has a famous name - Governor Steve Beshear.
Lundergan is a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton. He served as her campaign chair in 2004. Clinton took Kentucky while she lost the primary to Barack Obama. Some at the meeting saw that as a plus for Lundergan. Others, supporting her chief rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, were not so sure.
There was discussion of the upcoming election of delegates to the Democratic state and national conventions, but most of the meeting was focused on Democratic messaging and organizing.
Frustrated by what they saw was a botched campaign at the top that left voters ill informed on the issues, activists saw as their first job to educate the public on issues like "right to work".
The phrase refers to a system that allows union representation but workers are not required to pay union dues to have union representation. Right to work is popular in southern states, like Alabama and Tennessee. Murphy said that statistics show that states with right to work laws have lower wages. Right to work was on top of candidate Matt Bevin's to do list.
Candidate recruitment was also a serious topic. The Purchase has few Democratic incumbents. With the Kentucky House on a knife edge of a GOP take over, holding on to seats and challenging incumbents is a priority.
Those attending the early morning meeting agreed on two things:
1. the cavalry is not coming over the hill from Frankfort or Washington to rescue West Kentucky and
2. Democrats in the Purchase are ready for a fight.