Kentucky Dem Chairman Colmon Eldridge in Paducah
The first question I posed to Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Eldridge was one shared by many frustrated Democrats in Western Kentucky.
"How does the Democratic Party plan to turn Western Kentucky from red to at least purple?" The first African American Chairman of any political party in Kentucky has obviously been thinking about the subject and had a to-do and have-done list ready to share.
"First and foremost, Democrats are taking the lead in government. We've seen historic investments in West Kentucky"
There have been thousands of jobs created and then the disaster of December 10th that brought international attention to Western Kentucky. "Obviously there's the way the Governor mobilized and really just compassion after the tornadoes."
"I truly believe it's because of those investments and the compassion that folks are able to see the Democratic Party in a way that they haven't which is that we are at our best people who care about people. That's why we care about infrastructure. We care about health care. We are about public education at a time when the GOP has weaponized. We want to make investments because we believe."
Eldridge has four children. "I want them to have good schools and I want them to be able to stay in the community in which they are raised." His aspiration for his children is for them to live their best lives. "That's what we're about".
Eldridge grew up in Cynthiana, a Central Kentucky town of 6400 in Harrison County. "We had so many Democrats, the paper was called the Cynthiana Democrat." (Google says the paper is still the Cynthiana Democrat.)
I reminded him that the Paducah Sun was once the Paducah Sun Democrat and asked if he could explain how and when the Democratic lock on the state slipped. He remembered when Democrats controlled all branches of state government, many local government offices and all of the federal representatives were of one political persuasion.
Politics was about personal connections. At some point, the personal connection between governed and governing was lost.
He doesn't know or wouldn't say when the personal connection between the Democratic Party and the majority of Kentuckians was lost. He believes a recognition that a reconnection has to take place. Eldridge credits Governor Beshear for becoming connected again. Governor Andy Beshear, whose family hails from Western Kentucky, has made multiple trips to the area to participate in opening businesses and factories and then in the aftermath of the tornado. Much as he is doing in flooded areas of Eastern Kentucky.
When confronted about the First Congressional District now stretching from Fulton to Frankfort, Eldridge cited a pending court case regarding redistricting. The case has been on hold because a court decision that changes districts would affect candidates who may or may not be where they filed to run. If the courts decide not to rule in the Plaintiffs' favor, the districts designed by the Republican supermajority in the Legislature will be in place until the next census of 2030.
It was explained that some counties in this region are too small to have executive committees mandated by state Party rules. The rules have been strictly followed to the point that some counties cannot elect an effective executive committee.
He understands that the current Democratic Party structure isn't particularly conducive to newcomers moving into leadership roles. "If I'd waited my turn, I'd still be waiting."
Eldridge believes that Democrats must stop letting the opposition define who we are. "We have to show people we know how to fight." Eldridge characterizes the current GOP stance to be "they'd rather see Andy (Beshear) lose than Kentucky win."
He told several hundred Democrats in Paducah Thursday evening that Democrats are not baby killers and not opposed to religion. "Many of us became Democrats because of our religion."
He promised there will be punching back by Senate candidate Charles Booker at the Fancy Farm Picnic Political Speaking on August 6th. With the overwhelming weight of speakers being from the right side of the St. Jerome's Pavilion, he will get ample opportunity to throw some left hooks.
It's time to be proud to be a Democrat again."