The Purchase Area Jefferson Jackson Dinner by the Calloway Democratic Party held Friday evening in the Curris Center at Murray State was attended by a smaller crowd this year than last. Last year, the crowd was around 400. This year, about 200 hundred attended.
There are some good reasons for the smaller turn out. Not only did fewer local Dems come, but fewer Democratic leaders appeared.
Last year, the Governor was on hand. This year, the Governor took a pass. Last year, a primary for Jim Bunning’s seat was just getting underway. Conflict brings out the crowds. Democrats last year were still buoyed by Democratic victories in the House, the Senate and taking the White House, although Kentucky went for the other guy – Sen. John McCain. Democrats at last year’s JJD were noisy and cheerful. They heard rousing speeches from Frankfort’s executive branch.
The only candidate who didn’t show up in 2009 was AG Jack Conway. As we recall, he had a previously scheduled fundraiser in another part of the state. It was the first of Conway’s missteps in West Kentucky. The most memorable was Conway’s gaffe at Fancy Farm in August 2009, using a naughty word while purportedly quoting Wendell Ford. He was later redeemed by the endorsement of that old lion of Democrat politics within weeks of the primary. Some down here speculate that Ford’s approval may have brought the margin of victory for Conway.
The Governor didn’t make it to Murray Friday night. He’s not on the ballot for another year. Crit Luallen didn’t make it either. She is term limited out of her office as State Auditor. While rumors swirl about her future plans, Luallen hasn’t made a formal announcement.
Most of the usual elements were present this year. The food was wonderful, as usual. Prime rib and squash casserole and some kind of chocolate pie, full of white chocolate. David Ramey, of the Calloway County Democratic Executive Committee was better than ever as MC. The silent auction featured Democratic collectibles, among them a signed photo of President Lyndon Johnson. Court of Appeals Judge Shea Nickle led in singing the Star Spangled Banner and My Old Kentucky Home. Familiar surroundings. Comfort food. Oft repeated rhetoric. It was not a night full of surprises. But this year’s Democrats weren’t looking for big news. They were looking for themes and leaders and enthusiasm.
Calloway County Dems honored two of their own at the Dinner. Young Democrat Denny Leach was named MSU Democrat of the Year. Dr. Paul G. Randolph, at right, received the Z. C. Enix Democrat of the Year Award.
What were missing in Murray Friday night were the voices of women. While the rest of the country was celebrating primary victories by women in several key states only the Tuesday before, the program on Friday night at MSU was Men Only. Men gave awards and accepted awards. They made speeches. A couple of Democratic women candidates and some local Dem chairs were recognized. Women who worked on preparations got a round of applause. Two women members of the Kentucky Democratic Executive Committee were in attendance and recognized.
The lack of women taking part in the program hasn’t been obvious in past years because Crit Luallen has been on the program. This year, without Crit, the omission is glaring.