During a festive holiday gathering at MeMaw's on Thursday evening, December 8th, special guest Kentucky State Senator Reggie Thomas, of the 13th District, brought to the attention of his fellow Democratic Party followers that their Party seems to have lost the heart and soul of Middle America.
"We are a strong party in New York City and Los Angeles, California, but nowhere in between," stated Senator Thomas. "We can't survive like that. We call ourselves the people's party but really in 2016 we are not the people's party."
Senator Thomas will be searching for the reasons on why this has happened as 2016 comes to a close and we begin a new year in 2017.
"We talk about being for education and for the working man, for the children and for the environment," he continued. "Yet there is a disconnect with what we say, what our actions are and what people believe."
A starting point for elected officials like Senator Thomas is to still follow our path, he believes, but listen to what the people want and what they are saying.
"It is clear that people are frustrated, that they are angry," noted Senator Thomas. "Somehow we are not meeting their needs."
He asked everyone in attendance, including former Senator Carroll Hubbard, candidate Jesse Wright, candidate Mike Murphy, Clinton City Councilman Howard Dillard, Fulton County Judge/Executive Jim Martin, and many more to talk with their neighbors, people they attend church with, meet in the grocery stores, and family members during the holidays.
"Ask them what is it about Democrats today that makes them so in effective?" requested Senator Thomas.
Senator Thomas is confident that 30 or 40 years from now, that the Democratic Party will be on the right side of history.
"I believe that when our children and grandchildren are our age they will see that we are on the right side of history," stated Senator Thomas. "We will come back, but we have to start now. We need to listen to the people and figure out why our message is not being heard. The bottom-line is that we need to convince them that we really do care. That we really do love them, that we love Kentucky, and our country."
One of Senator Thomas's goals as he looks forward to the 2017 General Assembly in Frankfort is to work with the Republican Party.
"I read in the paper where the Republican Senate and the Republican house have majority and their focus is going to be on economic issues, jobs, and I support that," he said. "I think it is a wise move."
Senator Thomas doesn't want them to get into any kind of contentious debate on issues that are non-economic. "I think that would serve to add division in Frankfort and we don't need that," he added. "We need to find common ground moving forward."
He also realizes that there will be times when the two parties will disagree.
"I am sure there will be some issues where I will disagree," he said.
Senator Thomas disagrees with doing away with the Kynect, Kentucky's health care exchange.
"I think the proposed waiver requirements that will rapidly change the Medicaid expansion are too harsh, particularly with the work requirement. If they pay their fees but don't meet all the requirements, you can still lose your health care for six months and I think that is very harsh."
He would like to see some compromise there, but other than that he is really looking forward to working with Republicans in the Legislature and trying to find some consensus that they all can get behind and move the state of Kentucky forward economically.
Senator Thomas supports building a bridge between Kentucky and Missouri, but says the funding needs to be found.
"It is a federal issue and hopefully if we can get Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul behind it, we can make it happen."
"I am well aware of the challenges that Fulton County is facing," he said. He attributes a lot of that to Fulton County Democratic Committee Chairman Brad Wiley.
You truly are a wonderful advocate for your community," Senator Thomas told Wiley Thursday night. "I say that sincerely because he contacts me about once a week telling me what is going on in Fulton County. He persistently gets me back down here to Fulton County, talking about critical issues that are affecting your community like the additional river port, the schools, and the lack of good highways."
Senator Thomas says he will be back in April after the 2017 Legislature Session is complete to tour the four river county schools.
Senator Thomas and Wiley did make a brief stop at Fulton County Schools during his recent visit.
Senator Thomas was elected during a special election in December 2013, taking office in January 2014. He will begin his fourth year during the 2017 General Session.