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1/21/2005

Wellstone Action in Kentucky

I am working on getting Wellstone Action to hold a training program in Kentucky this Summer. As maybe one of a half dozen Kentuckians that worked on one of Senator Wellstone's campaigns, I can't stress how important it is that we Kentuckians learn to organize like Paul did.

Kentucky's tradition of progressive, decent, moderate politics is slipping, snared in the creeping Reedification of Midwestern politics. If Kentucky, always a border state, falls, Ralph Reed's pernicious politics will stand on the door step of the industrial Midwest. It's time to take our stand - indeed, it's time to push back. Kentucky can do it - Louisville is still solidly blue, and Lexington has actually grown increasingly blue in the last several cycles. The mountain counties of Eastern Kentucky shine blue, though a lack of organization and demographic shifts have reduced their electoral clout. It is the culturally deep South areas of Western Kentucky and the anomalous conservative Catholic areas of Northern Kentucky that weigh down the state, producing overwhelming margins for the GOP. Nonetheless, we won a special election in early 2004, and we almost won a Senate seat we had no business competing in. We still have a chance to hold the state.

Unfortunately, we won't have the party to help us. I don't want to be too down on the KYDP, but they are in organizational shambles. Digging themselves deeper, they recently elected a new chair, Jerry Lundergan, who is driving liberals out of the party:

Democratic State Representatives Kathy Stein of Lexington and Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville say there's a chance they could be registered Independents by the 2006 elections. Marzian and Stein are two of the more liberal state Reps. Both cite the reelection of Democratic House leaders, Democrats pushing the ban on gay marriage and the selection of Jerry Lundergan as state party chairman as proof the Democratic party is leaving its roots, becoming too conservative:

“We will continue to try to out-Republican the Republicans? I don’t think it can be done,” said Stein.
It's not that Lundergan is too conservative, or that he's a bad organizer (though to my knowledge he's never demonstrated any acumen), but that he has a ton of "ethics" baggage, including an illegal "$153,000 no-bid state contract for catering work" in the late 80s. Nonetheless, he received the tacit endorsement of House Democratic leaders, who still hold a sizable majority, and waltzed into the chairmanship.

The major selling point for Kentucky progressives is that the GOP are corrupt, power-hungry rogues. [See Bluegrassroots for more]. Lundergan will not be able to effectively make that case, and the fact that party leaders didn't oppose him demonstrates that they still don't see reality. Unpleasant as it may be, we must now work with the party when we can, without it when we can't, and against it when we must.

The first step is identifying, training, and energizing our activist base. We are there, even in Northern and Western Kentucky. We need to develop a plan forward. Wellstone Action can help us move forward. Leave a message or drop me an email if you are interested in helping make this happen.

 

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