“Remember in November” rally brings hundreds to Paducah

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The Flush Float with another candidate for
The Flush Float with another candidate for "flushing" in November (photo by Berry Craig)

Jim “Roy” Rodgers warned that Nov. 6 is more than a midterm election.

“It’s a life-changing election,” added Rodgers, who belongs to Paducah Steelworkers Local 550. “But if we don’t get out and vote, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Rodgers joined about 1,500 union members, teachers, and others for a “Remember in November Rally” in Paducah Saturday afternoon.

The throng cheered a quartet of speakers, including House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook). They took turns at the podium inside the city’s spacious convention center, which was decorated with big banners supplied by local unions.

“Are you in it to win it?” Atkins challenged. “Will you remember in November?”

Everybody responded affirmatively, standing, clapping, cheering, and whistling.

All present also roared with more laughter and applause as emcee Larry Sanderson ended the rally by “flushing” Republicans in a 10-foot “commode,” which gave port-a-potty new meaning.

The oversize john was the featured attraction on the Paducah Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 184’s Labor Day parade float.

The Flush Float (photo by Berry Craig)
The Flush Float (photo by Berry Craig)

Kyle Henderson, Local 184 business manager, helped organize the rally, which was similar to one Sanderson emceed in Owensboro last month.

A retired international representative for UA (United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada), Sanderson is Henderson’s stepfather.

After the Louisville band “Relic” warmed up the crowd, Henderson led off the speech making.

“For 95 years, Kentucky voters had not allowed the Republicans to control the House, the Senate and the governor’s office at the same time; now we know why,” said Henderson, who is also president of the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council.

'For 95 years, Kentucky voters had not allowed the Republicans to control the House, the Senate, and the governor’s office at the same time; now we know why.” – Kyle Henderson at the 'Remember in November' rallyClick To Tweet

The Area Council, the West Kentucky Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Kentucky Pipe Trades co-sponsored the event.

“We are here today in solidarity,” he declared. “We are here today to say that we have had enough. We will no longer be bullied.”

Henderson said the Republicans claim to be “the party of morals and family values.” He “might believe that when pigs fly, and Louisville is Kentucky’s favorite basketball team – nah, not even then.”

He reminded the crowd that in the last two sessions of the legislature, GOP Gov. Matt Bevin and Republican House and Senate majorities teamed up to pass a “right to work” law and approved measures that repealed the prevailing wage on state-funded construction projects, reduced pension benefits for teachers and other public employees, and cut taxes for the wealthy.

He called the tax legislation a “Robin-Hood-in-reverse” bill. Henderson cited a Lexington Herald-Leader headline: “New taxes won’t do much for Kentucky, but they’re sweet for the well-off.”

He said Frankfort Republicans want to destroy unions “because we give a voice to those who do not have one. They hate the money you make and the benefits you have.”

State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan addresses the rally. (photo by Berry Craig)
State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan addresses the rally. (photo by Berry Craig)

Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan followed Henderson to the mike.

“We often say ‘this is the most important election of your lifetime,'” he began. “Well, brothers and sisters, for the organized labor movement and working families in Kentucky, yes, this is the most important election.”

He challenged his listeners “to get out and show the other side that we are not afraid,” and that neither Koch brothers’ money nor Bevin is “going to take over Kentucky.”

Londrigan concluded by warning, “unless we pull together in the next few days, the consequences could be devastating.”

Jacqueline Coleman, gubernatorial hopeful Andy Beshear's running mate, was in the speaker's lineup. (photo by Berry Craig)
Jacqueline Coleman, gubernatorial hopeful Andy Beshear’s running mate, was in the speaker’s lineup. (photo by Berry Craig)

Attorney Gen. Andy Beshear, the first Democrat to toss his hat in the ring for governor, was invited to speak. Unable to make the rally, he dispatched his running mate, Jacqueline Coleman, an assistant principal at Nelson County High School in Bardstown.

“Fighting the drug epidemic, creating good paying jobs, especially in rural Kentucky where they are needed the most, and fully funding education…are the things that happen when Democrats have the majority [in the legislature] and the governor’s mansion,” the Mercer Countian said.

Next up, Heath elementary teacher and Kentucky Education Association member Sara Stephenson said that with the GOP ruling the political roost in Frankfort “our profession has been treated like yesterday’s leftover square pizza.”

She didn’t mince words. “There is a war on public education in the state of Kentucky right now.”

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After Stephenson exited stage right, Adkins entered, stage left. He bounded to the podium, introducing himself as “the proud Democratic leader in the Kentucky House of Representatives.”

Adkins's speech was a crowd pleaser. (photo by Berry Craig)
Adkins’s speech was a crowd pleaser. (photo by Berry Craig)

He vowed that “come November the sixth, I am here to tell you, that we are going to take back the Kentucky House, and we are going to bring common sense back to this great commonwealth! Are you with me?”

The crowded chorused “Yes!” and rose as one, cheering and applauding.

The eastern Kentuckian explained that he came to western Kentucky “to try to motivate you, to try to energize you. … Ten days from today, you will have your opportunity to walk the walk to the voting booth and have your day to get even.”

Adkins said he has been honored “to fight for organized labor and to fight for public education in this great commonwealth of Kentucky. I think that fight’s worth fighting! How about you?”

The crowd cheered and applauded anew.

Sanderson, a former Local 184 business manager, stood aside while rally-goers watched videos on big screens to the right and left of the stage.

He also invited AFL-CIO-endorsed candidates—all Democrats—to come forward and introduce themselves.

He passed the mike to House hopefuls Desiree Owen, Charlotte Goddard, Martha Emmons, Abigail Barnes, Linda Story Edwards, and Jeff Taylor; state Senate candidate Julie Tennyson; and Paul Walker, who is running for Congress in the First District.

Sanderson wrapped up the rally by climbing onto the float, which was pulled inside the building. Signs stuck on the float called for “flushing” Republican state Sen. Danny Carroll, state Reps. Steven Rudy, Richard Heath, and Lynn Bechler, and GOP House candidate Randy Bridges.

Sticking out of the giant John was a pair of fake legs. With the crowd cheering him on, Sanderson deposited Carroll, Rudy, Heath, Bechler and Bridges signs in the “toilet.”

He announced that he was saving the best sign for last. “Flush Matt Bevin” it said.

The crowd laughed and cheered approvingly.

United Auto Workers retiree Jerry Sykes got a kick out of the skit. But he pledged to get serious about helping to retire Republicans on Nov. 6.

“We win the way we always win: It’s the fourth quarter, and we’re down 10 points. We do the walking and the talking, then we bring our families and friends to the polls.”

Elementary school teacher and KEA member Gina Crider of Murray is all in for “getting evangelical. People in this area don’t mind talking about their churches and asking you if you need a church home.

“We need to treat this election the same way. We’ve got to get evangelical about looking out for our friends, our neighbors, and our schools.”

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Berry Craig
Berry Craig of Mayfield is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.