L to R - Dan Boaz, Shirley Menendez honor Merryman Kemp as 2017 Democrat of the Year atat Alben Barkley Dem Dinner
Paducah KY- August 3, 2017 - As the winners of Democratic awards were announced, the changing face of the Democratic Party was on display at the Alben Barkley Democratic Dinner on Thursday evening in Paducah. Three Democrats honored at the Dinner illustrate how the Kentucky Democratic Party in Western Kentucky is changing. Merryman Kemp, Aaron Bugg and Leighann Dycus were recognized for their contributions.
Leighann Dycus was recognized as Rising Young Democrat. She is an example of how young women are being drawn into leadership. Dycus is a June 2017 graduate of Emerge Kentucky.
Emerge Kentucky program is organized effort to recruit Democratic women from across the Commonwealth to run for public office. And it trains them to do it. In 2016, a year most charitably described as abysmal for Kentucky Democrats, Emerge graduates enjoyed a 70% success rate. McCracken Countians have taken full advantage of Emerge. Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless, Paducah City Commissioner Sarah Stewart Holland and Family Court Judge Deanna Henschell are all Emerge graduates. Dycus is one of three McCracken County women in the Class of 2017. Emerge Kentucky Class of 2017 visits Paducah
McCracken County Young Democrat of the Year Aaron Bugg, at left, rose to prominence in Purchase politics for being instrumental in bringing Bernie Sanders to Paducah in May 2016. Bugg has been active in Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and other Western Kentucky progressive movements.
Democrat of the Year, Merryman Kemp, is on the other end of the age spectrum. Kemp, a longtime progressive activist, spearheaded Merryman House in 1978. A new center was recently constructed in Paducah. Kemp has also been active in the Democratic Women's Club and Business and Professional Women's Club.
Bugg said after receiving the award that he is moving to St. Louis to take a job with a solar panel company. Bugg said he took the job because it is an industry he is passionate about.
Kemp, who has been in ill health for several years, is no longer as politically active as she once was.
Kemp and Bugg illustrate how the Democratic Party in Kentucky is changing. Younger Dems move for jobs or for a more vibrant lifestyle. Older Democrats face health and issues of aging.
Leighann Dycus represents the changing Democratic Party. As Emerge Kentucky graduates step up, the face of Kentucky's Democratic Party will increasingly be younger and female.