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Local Democrats: We're Alive, We're Well, We Have a Plan

Nearly 100 Democrats from across Northern Kentucky gathered Tuesday evening for the annual Jackson Day Dinner hosted by the Kenton County Democratic Women’s Club.

It was a night for celebration and affirmation. “We’re alive and well, we’re organized, we have a game plan,” said Acena Beck, club member and executive committee member of the Kenton County Democratic Party.

The next six months will be about making the Democratic presence known to the entire community, beginning with this weekend’s Maifest, where Democrats will have a booth with information about the Democratic candidates in local, state and federal primary races, set for Tuesday, May 17. Seven Democrats are vying to be the U.S. Senate candidate who will be on the ballot against Rand Paul in November.

The Women’s Club is already preparing for the Democratic presidential campaign, signing up “canvassers, phone banks, volunteer to man Kenton County headquarters (36 W. Pike St., Covington) so it can be open extended hours.”

The evening’s honoree, Alice Sparks, winner of the Emma Hollis Award, was recognized for being “a trailblazer in business, education and politics” since moving to Northern Kentucky in the 1950s. Her thanks included a shout-out to labor unions and the reminder, “Women have to stand together. And we will.”

“We’re here,” echoed Thaddeus Walls, president of the Northern Kentucky chapter of Kentucky Young Democrats. He’s also an officer in the state organization.

“People equate viability with winning elections,” he said frankly. Area and state elections have been dominated by the Republican Party in recent years, but, Walls says, Democrats are alive and well. “You’re not looking for survivors of the zombie holocaust.”

“We’re in a re-building phase,” Walls assessed. “We’re adjusting to shifting demographics.” Part of the plan is “more coordination efforts between counties.”

One of the keys to having a larger stake in local elections, he said, is talking, not tweeting, to family, friends and neighbors, convincing them to “vote on the issues, not the party. How do your values line up? Vote in your own best interest.”

Kerry Holleran believes the women’s club is as viable as when it was founded in 1927 “Women in politics get things done.” Coming together in an official capacity “gives us an opportunity to sit down together, plan and execute.”

There’s vital information to share with voters across the region, Holleran says. She’s excited about the introduction of online voting in Kentucky, with 11,000 new voters registering every month since its inception, and about the recent felony expungement legislation. “So many people don’t know that.” She’s hoping it will be a talking point where Democrat organizations participate at upcoming community events including Maifest.

Holleran is part of the New Kentucky Project formed by former state Auditor Adam Edelen and popular Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones. A June roll-out is planned.

She’s looking forward to “figuring out our commonalities” with all voters. “I think there is common ground, it’s chart-able territory.”

Keynote speaker Cara Stewart, a Health Law Fellow with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, warned about planned changes in Kentucky healthcare and “what we’re at risk of losing.”

She called healthcare a “unifying issue” and pointed out “7out of 10 want to keep Medicaid the way it is, twice as many people want to keep Kynect as those who don’t. I think people don’t even know how at risk they are.”

Women’s Club President Virginia Johnson is looking forward to this year’s races, with club members working with candidates, “getting out the vote, supporting and contributing.”

And she’s looking forward to next year’s 90th anniversary of the founding of the organization with Democratic women from across the state gathering to mark when and where it began, on March 17 at The Seelbach Hotel in Louisville.

“Democratic women, Democratic values matter.”

For more information about the Kenton County Democratic Women’s Club:

For more information about the New Kentucky Project:

Written by Jackie Demaline. RCN conributor