(Murray, KY June 16, 2012) - Democrats from 14 counties gathered at Murray State University on Friday evening to enjoy a prime rib dinner that most MSU students wouldn’t recognize. (MSU has a terrific grill – but most opt for more youth oriented fare).
The crowd was down from 2011, numbering a bit shy of 200. Missing from the crowd were any elected county officials from Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman and Fulton Counties. the McCracken, Graves and Marshall County delegations were noticably smaller this year. Carlisle County Democrats scheduled a barbecue in Bardwell the same evening. Hickman County sent one lone Clinton City Councilman.
The previous year the Calloway Democratic Committee's event hosted candidate Jerry Abramson and virtually the whole Democratic ticket show up. This year, the highest ranking executive official in attendance was Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes. With legislative seats up for grabs, both Speaker Greg Stumbo and second in command Rocky Adkins made the very, very long trip from their far eastern Kentucky districts to support legislative candidates.
Returning to the ballot after his 2006 primary defeat at the hands of Rep. Melvin Henley, 5th District House is candidate Hal Kemp. Henley is retiring and the seat is one of several open seats in West Kentucky.
Kemp joked that since his granddaughter is sixteen months old, he has discovered he is very good at being a grandfather. He led the evenings speeches with an attack on the partisanship holding the government hostage. He told the crowd that Sen. McConnell and the GOP are to blame for Washington gridlock and that Sen. David Williams and the GOP are to blame for the gridlock in Frankfort. Kemp said he would cross the political aisle to work with the opposing party if it benefits the people of Kentucky.
When Emcee David Ramey introduced Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, he told the crowd to hang on to their hats, she would be an animated speaker. And she was. Arms waving in the air, Grimes punctuated her statements as if she were holding maritime signal flags.
Grimes, a politician born and bred, remembered her manners and thanked the people of the Jackson Purchase for helping her win her seat and making her the only woman elected in the executive branch. Grimes wants more women in elective office. She shared her personal story of growing up in a household of five sisters. She described having to be both fast and smart at the breakfast table to compete.
“I want Kentucky to look like our breakfast table.” She said, bringing laughter and applause.
Rocky Adkins, once a stranger in West Kentucky, has become a regular visitor, spurring speculation that he might have aspirations past being House Majority Leader. The Sandy Hook native played basketball for Morehead State University and recalled playing against scrappy Murray State teams. Adkins encouraged those listening to return to old time politics of hitting the pavement and personal contact. He urged a return to precinct politics, for party activists to take responsibility again for vote totals in their area.
Campaigning was only one of the themes of Rep. Greg Stumbo, the evening’s keynote speaker. He told several humorous stories of past campaigns. His serious message was for Democrats to be proud and ready to answer criticisms of Democrats.
Stumbo told the crowd that while he does not agree with everything President Obama does, he still supports him. He specifically mentioned support for the killing of Osama bin Laden and the Affordable Health Care Act. “Everyone has a right to medical care,” he said.
He said that he disagrees with the President’s stand on social issues, (he didn’t say which ones) but he said that disagreeing and remaining in the same party is a strength of the Democratic Party. That message was one that conservative West Kentucky Democrats were ready to hear and embrace.
The evening ended with the naming of retired MSU professor Mary Jane Littleton as the 2012 recipient of the Z. Enix Award, an honor given each year by the Calloway County Democratic Party to one of their number who works hard for Democratic values.