682. A wedding, a dinner, and a possible presidential contender. Young and old Democrats celebrated yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon and evening provided, for me, opportunities to see Democratic political friends both old and young at two unrelated events. The fact that they were both scheduled around 6 o'clock on the same day left a few folks perturbed, others wondering how they would manage to make both events, and, I suppose, others still who saw no conflict.
The earlier of the two - or rather the more important of the two in my book - was the marriage of my friend Will Carle to his now bride Julie Wahl. While I only met Julie not very long ago, I have known Will for many years and have a great deal of affection for him. His parents, Ed and Dottie Carle, were friends with my uncle and aunt, Don (who died in 2005) and Judy Noble. Will's godparents are Danny and Patty Meyer, people I've known since I was a teenager. I sat with the Meyer's during the ceremony and at some point Patty mentioned having been in this same church for Will's baptism.
Will is exactly twenty years younger than me. He has worked in campaigns since he was a very young man. In recent years he has worked in the governor's office in Frankfort, as well as the campaigns of the current mayor, Greg Fischer, and presently as the campaign manager for Adam Edelen, a candidate for Auditor of Public Accounts, a statewide office which will appear on this November's ballot. Mr. Edelen was one of the groomsmen in the wedding.
Will and Julie were married in the Calvary Episcopal Church, a staid building of limestone and bedford stone on 4th Street just south of Broadway in downtown Louisville. Calvary, founded in 1860, was built in two phases, at its present location, between 1872 and 1889.
In addition to the usual framework of the families and friends of the bride and groom in attendance were a handful of young, active Democrats (and at least one young, active Republican). In addition to Mr. Edelen, there were at least two other political activists serving as groomsman, one, Aaron Horner, who is partially responsible for me holding my seat on the Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee. There were also a group of younger Democrats in the congregation gathered for the ceremony.
As someone now past the half-century mark, I am hopeful these young folks stick together in guiding Kentucky and its Democrats well into the 21st century.
Leaving the wedding, I made my way over to the Galt House East where, in the Grand Ballroom, the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party was having its annual dinner and celebration. In most places these dinners are called Jefferson-Jackson Dinners, after the early founders of the Democratic Party. It is my belief, however, that if we study the politics and policies of presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, we may have second thoughts about celebrating in their honor. Many years ago, I think 1985, the Democrats of Jefferson County decided to rename their "J-J" Dinner the Wendell H. Ford Appreciation Dinner, later shortened to the Wendell Ford Dinner, and often called simply the Ford Dinner.
Wendell Hampton Ford, of Owensboro, served in Kentucky's legislature, then as lieutenant governor, governor, and ultimately United States Senator. He is now 86 years old and, if the speech he gave last night is any indication, still in pretty good shape. His message was brief and to the point. We are at war with a political ideology whose purpose is to serve the rich and the corporate at the expense of the average American. And we must continue to battle against this intrusion on the American way of life.
There was at least one other octogenarian in attendance, former State Representative Al Bennett, about the same age as Ford, who once represented parts of southwest Jefferson County. At the end of the program, for a few brief moments, Mr. Bennett and I were joined in conversation by Michael Bowman, also a southwest Jefferson resident and young man on the move. I do not know how old Michael is - my presumption is he is about 25. He currently serves as president of the Grassroots Democratic Club, a long-time southwest Jefferson Democratic association, one which my grandmother belonged to when I was a little kid. While it may have been lost on Al and Michael, I was mentally engaged in the idea of past and future leaders speaking here with me in these two. Michael has already ran (and lost) a race for the Metro Council. There are strong indications he will run again for something at some point. He has not said what. Last night he was awarded the Joni Jenkins Young Democrat of the Year award for his involvement in the Party. He has a cadre of followers and I am sure is someone we will be hearing from in the future.
At the other end of the age spectrum, I was seated at a table with Clarence Yancey, the 75 or so year old self-proclaimed godfather of Louisville's West End, who has been a Legislative District Chair for about twenty years now, since first being appointed by then-County Chair Bill Ryan, who was also at my table. On my right was Christa Robinson and to my left were Cathy Yarmuth, followed by her husband the congressman, and their son Aaron - beocming an active leader in his own right, and a young woman I presumed to be Aaron's date. Clarence won the Johnny Crimmins Lifetime Achievement Award and it was well-deserving. I am just old enough to remember Mr. Crimmins, who was the Party secretary or chair for many years in the mid 20th century. Mr. Crimmins died in April, 1999.
The event was a mixture of old and young. There is always some talk that there are too many old folks on the County Executive Committee and not enough attention paid to those younger Democrats in our midst. Without question, the latter statement is true. Sooner or later, there will come a time for the Jefferson County Party to pass the torch to this new generation of young leadership. Their presence at last night's dinner was quite obvious. I'm of the opinion that time may be sooner rather than later. Still, though, the 35 and older crowd predominated the room. Until that is not the case, it is likely there will not be a change in the power structure.
Before I leave the dinner, and before I leave the discussion of a power change, let me mention the guest speaker, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. Governor O'Malley is the head of the Democratic Governors Association, a group which is slated to spend some dollars and hours in Kentucky this helping to re-elect Kentucky's incumbent Democratic governor. The Maryland governor cited a number of reasons that Kentucky needed to re-elect its governor, not the least of which is the chaos which would ensue if his expected (by most, but not all) opponent is elected. In this regard, I strongly agree with the Governor O'Malley.
The rest of his speech was a combination of cliches, rounded out with solid facts, a little bit of old-fashioned preaching, and a sparkling look and personality. It occurred to me that there is some presidential potential in Governor O'Malley and I am sure I am not the only person who saw that. But, it was just a glimpse, a spark, but not the whole fire. Nonetheless, he has a history. As a young man, he was involved in the 1984 campaign of Gary Hart. He would have been 21 at the time. He spoke at the 2004 national convention in Boston in support of John Kerry.
Few of us have had the opportunity to see a person in those formative years who later became president. After all, there have only been 44 presidencies. I am fortunate that circumstance placed me in a position in 2006 to meet up close and personal the man who became the 44th American president, Barack Obama. Many of us recognised at the time that it was very likely this tall mixed-race, Hawaiian born senator from Illinois would one day very soon become America's Commander-In-Chief. I know I left that September 2006 event at Slugger Field with that notion, although at the time I was supporting Chris Dodd for president.
While I didn't get that overwhelming feeling from Governor O'Malley last night, I sense that it may there, which is to say I got a little of it. And that is pretty cool as far as I am concerned. I had a few brief words with the governor, sporting my "I am an Obama Precinct Captain" button, which caught his eye and sparked the conversation. And I like him for other reasons. He, like me, is a history buff; he has appeared on The History Channel describing the British Invasion of 1812, something he spoke of last night - the invasion itself, not his appearnce on TV, tying its hero to Kentucky. And he is from my generation. Just as President Obama is just a bit younger than me, Governor O'Malley is just a bit younger than the president. It is time we started electing folks to higher and the highest offices who were born in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. I'm going to keep my eye on this man.
Briefly, though, back to the old and the new.
As I have done every four since 1980, next year, 2012, I will be participating in the National Democratic Party's reorganization process, a process which includes the Kentucky Democratic Party reorganization, and starts with the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party Reorganization. I was first elected to the Jefferson County Party's Executive Committee in 1980 at the age of 19. I know of only two people who have served as Chair or Vice Chair who were of that age - Rushi Sheth in 2000 as Vice Chair of the 48th LD (at 18) and Preston Bates in 2008 as Chair of the 48th LD (at 19).
While there may not be a lot of teenagers running for these partisan positions, there should be a lot of 20, 30 and 40 years olds running, and not just for the "youth" positions. I'll be writing more about this in the future. I just wanted to get this first plug in tonight. This reorganization process will take place throughout the Republic beginning in April of next year and culminating in the National Democratic Convention in Charlotte next summer. It is never too early to plan.
[The blog was updated 02/13/2012 to correct the name of Rushi Sheth, previously misrecorded as Rushi Sushil Apologies to Mr. Sheth for the error and thanks to Michael Garton for pointing it out. JN]