How to start a Democratic county committee in a deep red county Skip to content

How to start a Democratic county committee in a deep red county

If you’re a despondent Democrat in a crimson county, we feel your pain. But if we can do it, so can you.

Committee member Mahlon Thomas of Bardwell and the governor (photo by Berry Craig)

Some of my fellow Democrats think we need to work harder to win over the Trump faithful, especially in deep red rural counties like Carlisle, where my wife and I live. 

This 73-year-old Democrat and lifelong rural western Kentuckian doesn’t see MAGA folks as a “fertile mission field,” to use an old Baptist term. After all, a lot of them are of the “You can’t be a Christian and a Democrat” persuasion. 

A better bet is to fire up fellow Democrats. We went that route in Carlisle County, and it worked. With help from the Kentucky Democratic Party, we have an active county executive committee — with 22 members — for the first time in years.

Last month, we teamed up with the Ballard County committee to host a fundraiser for Gov. Beshear. We had 90 people in attendance and collected $14,435 for his campaign.

Our cups runneth over. So did his, we understand.   

Given how Carlisle has taken to voting of late, resurrecting a Democratic committee might seem like Mission Impossible.

Trump carried our Jackson Purchase county in blowouts in 2016 and 2020. So did Matt Bevin in ’19 and Rand Paul last year.

Our comeback started with a private Facebook page, proposed by Greg Weatherford, an old union guy like me.

I joined him as co-administrator. We had no idea how many members we’d get.

Almost immediately, we got requests to join from Carlisle countians, county expats, and fellow Dems from other Purchase counties. They were real-deal Dems, not DINOs: Democrats In Name Only. (The late Dick Castleman, a longtime Democratic state representative from Mayfield, my hometown and the Graves County seat, once told me how to spot a DINO: “They'll tell you, ‘I’m a registered Democrat.’”

We update our page daily with local, state, and national news and views. 

Our FB members included Carlisle County Judge-Executive Greg Terry – a fellow real-deal Democrat. Last spring, he suggested we try to resurrect the long dormant county committee.

He called a May meeting at Columbus-Belmont State Park. Eleven people came, and we proceeded to rebuild the committee.

Our numbers grew through the summer. Our meetings in Bardwell, the county seat, became standing room only. So we migrated to a larger venue in Cunningham, a nearby county town.

Word spread via Facebook and word-of-mouth. Our meetings began attracting visitors from adjoining Ballard, Hickman, and Graves counties.

In midsummer, we decided to take a big risk: the fundraiser. We set the date: Aug. 31.

Our two committees spread the news of our fundraiser via social media and word-of-mouth. Cate Paterson of the state party designed some sharp-looking fliers.

We booked the big community room at the UK Extension Service Building in Bardwell, decorated the place, and brought on finger food. Larry Sanderson of Reidland, one of my oldest union buddies, agreed to crank up the crowd and introduce Beshear.

Bottom line: Mission Impossible became mission accomplished. (Our Facebook page has 114 members and counting.)  

So can we convert Carlisle County from deep red to even pale blue by Nov. 7? Probably not. But – fingers crossed – the vote tally will show us at least pinking.

Don’t get me wrong. I say Godspeed to fellow Democrats who opt for missionary work among the MAGA faithful. 

But we’re sticking with what has worked for us: reaching out to real-deal Democrats eager to make common cause with other real-deal Democrats.

Now, if you’re a despondent Democrat in a crimson county, we feel your pain. But if we can do it, so can you. If nothing else, by hoisting the Democratic banner, you’ll have fun shaking up the county Republican powers-that-be who thought they had our party on the run for good.

Help is available from Kenny Fogle and the good folks at KDP HQ in Frankfort. A pair of Democratic activists — Jennifer Smith from Paducah and Daniel Hurt of Grand Rivers — provided pointers. There are Jennifers and Daniels in every Kentucky county. We made them honorary members of our committee.

We meet every month and have yet to fail to meet the necessary quorum to conduct business. This month, Daniel teamed up with committee member Gerry Jackson on a video presentation analyzing voter trends in Kentucky. 

The committee — plus family and friends — plans to convene on election night for what we hope will be a victory celebration. The governor might not carry our county. But I’d wager that he’ll get a larger share of the vote than he managed four years ago, and that will help boost his fortunes statewide.

Meanwhile, email me at bcraig8960@gmail.com if you want some more info about our committee or just feel in need of a  pep talk. We’d be happy to hear from you.

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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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