Chuck Eddy: “I was once a Republican. Now I’m running as a Democrat. Here’s why.”

Berry Craig
Berry Craig

Democratic state Senate hopeful Chuck Eddy, who used to be a Republican, doesn’t mince words about his former party.

“When President Biden said Trumpism was ‘like semi-fascism,’ the only word I disagreed with was ‘semi-.’”

Eddy, a Lexington retiree, is battling Republican Donald Douglas, a physician, for the right to represent the mostly rural 22nd District, which encompasses parts of Jessamine, Fayette, and Garrard counties.

According to his candidate website, Eddy is running as “a devoted follower of Christ, a friend of public education and unions.” (The Kentucky State AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed him.)

On his website, Douglas says he is “a strong conservative Republican” who favors “smaller government, local control of issues, lower taxes, positive economic reform, pro-life values, and upholding the second amendment.”

Eddy grew up a Republican in Abington, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. “Most of the Republicans I knew were moderates,” he said.

When he and his wife Cathy settled in Lexington in 1996, he signed up to vote as a Republican. She registered as a Democrat.

But Eddy soon discovered that most of the Kentucky GOP was deeply conservative and at odds with his moderate politics. “I hoped to help pull the party toward the center,” he remembered.

Eddy’s Democratic friends said he belonged in their party. They viewed his quest as quixotic, though admirable.

He kept trying to moderate the Kentucky Republican party, to no avail. Like the national party, the Bluegrass State GOP grew even more conservative.

Eddy's fealty to the GOP was sorely tested in 2015, which he calls “the year of Bevin and Trump.”

Explained Eddy: “When I saw Donald Trump come down that escalator on TV and heard his racist stuff, I thought to myself, ‘This guy is not for me. Same for Matt Bevin.'”

Though still a registered Republican, he voted for Democrat Jack Conway, who came up short against Bevin in the 2015 governor’s race. He also supported Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, but switched to Hillary Clinton when she got  the Democratic nomination.

Trump carried Kentucky in a landslide, pocketing all but Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington) counties.

“Trump was even worse than I feared,” Eddy said. “But I was still going to try to yank the party back to the middle, so I ran in the primary against Congressman Andy Barr in 2018.”

The conservative Barr, one of Trump’s most loyal House allies, routed Eddy. “The day after I lost, I put an Amy McGrath sign in my yard, and I knocked on doors for her.” Barr beat McGrath, the Democratic candidate, as well.

In the 2019 governor’s race, Eddy went door-to-door for Democrat Andy Beshear, who unseated Bevin.

Chuck Eddy campaigning for Andy Beshear in Reidland, a Paducah suburb, with Jennifer Smith, a Paducah Democratic activist.

The next year, he challenged Barr in the primary again. Same result. He voted for Democrat Josh Hicks and for McGrath who took on Sen. Mitch McConnell. Both incumbents notched additional terms.

By 2020, Eddy hadn’t cast a Republican ballot since 2014, except for himself. He was for Sanders again but rallied to Biden when he earned the Democratic nomination.

A month after Biden won, Eddy (R) became Eddy (D). “Seventeen Republican attorneys general and 126 House Republicans filed an amicus brief in support of that lawsuit by the Texas attorney general to invalidate the election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia and give the election to Trump,” Eddy said.

“I'd been sleeping with a Democrat for years, but that was the final blow. It was ‘ollie ollie oxen free’ for me. Deuces. I was gone. It was clear that the Republicans had put a mat in front of their door that said ‘moderates unwelcome.’”

Win or lose on Nov. 8, Eddy is happy in his new Democratic home. He has no regrets about leaving the party to which he belonged for most of his life. But he predicts that, still under Trump’s sway, the GOP will continue to drift farther rightward.

“I'm never going back to the Republican party even if it moderates some," Eddy said. "The party allowed this whole Trump thing to happen. Whatever they personally or individually believe, Republicans allowed this horror to happen.”

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Click here to donate to the Eddy campaign.

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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