by Molly Crain
For many, the January 2016 Women’s March on Washington became a turning point in their political awareness. For Cherlynn Stevenson—now a candidate for Kentucky’s 88th House district in Lexington—the March fueled her fire to run for office.
“I was being more vocal in trying to contact my representatives in Washington and Frankfort,” said Stevenson, who returned from the march angry, and felt compelled to focus on local politics.
Stevenson discovered that her elected officials “didn’t really want to hear my voice.” If her representatives did respond, it was with an impersonal form letter.
“They’re not voting with my values in mind. They’re not voting in my best interests at all. So I need that voice to change.” Stevenson said. “And I know that my voice echoes a lot of other voices. So I believe it’s time for regular folks to stand up and reset the standard that we expect from our elected officials.”
In the summer of 2016, she was approached by local community leaders who encouraged her to run for office and challenge State Representative Robert Benvenuti. Now that Benvenuti has decided not to run in 2018, the open seat is being sought by three Democrats and three Republicans.
Stevenson’s platform includes many pressing topics such as resolving our underfunded (“not broken,” she notes) pension system, fully funding public education, and supporting a single-payer health care solution. But she knows that these things won’t happen overnight. “I would love to see every man, woman, and child insured in some capacity. At least, be sure that they have access to quality, affordable health care.”
Her most immediate concern, though, is our state budget. “We absolutely have to have comprehensive tax reform, and we have to find new streams of revenue. When you look at everything that’s going on right now, a lot of it boils down to the fact that we just need more money,” Stevenson said.
“And I know that a lot of people don’t want to hear that, when you talk about taxes, but I believe that there’s a lot of things we can do. A lot of tax loopholes that can be closed, and a lot of corporate giveaways that can be stopped to help to raise that revenue. But then again, we have to look at additional streams as well.”
Stevenson’s background in nonprofit fundraising shows how determined she is to find new sources of revenue, having raised over $2 million for the American Cancer Society. “My family has been eaten up with cancer,” she said, “so it’s just been near and dear to my heart.”
Stevenson runs an event planning and production business with a friend, enabling her to work with clients such as the Breeder’s Cup and the “Run the Bluegrass” marathon. Additional nonprofit clients she’s had include Kentucky’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and the American Heart Association. Before her current position, Stevenson worked in “corporate life” as Valvoline’s wellness director.
Although she’s lived in Lexington for 18 years, Hindman is her hometown and where her parents still live. A 1999 alumna from Morehead State, internships brought her to Lexington where she met her husband and “never left.”
She’s excited for the Democratic primaries this May and will start canvassing soon. “I am so excited to get out and start knocking on doors and meeting people,” she said. “The constituents that I have been able to meet already, they’re excited, and you know they have a lot of ideas.
“They’re very anxious to share those ideas because, again, they have ultimately been underrepresented, and so for someone to come out and actually want to give them a voice, they’re really excited and that makes me really excited.”