As many of you know - probably all of you - I am involved with the Democratic Party not just as a registered voter but also as an internal Party official. My involvement with the Democratic Party, other than as a voter, began in April 1980, when I announced my candidacy for Legislative District Vice Chair of the 45th District, which, at the time, covered areas from Jefferson Hill and Keys Ferry roads on the west, eastward over to McNeely Lake Park and Pennsylvania Run on the east, all generally south of the old Louisville City Limits line starting around Strawberry Lane and Southside Drive eastward over to the Outer Loop and what we used to call Old Shep, now known as Shepherdsville Road, and extending southward to the Jefferson-Bullitt County line. I ran that year on a ticket with Carolyn Beauchamp, an advertising and public relations lady from Okolona. We opposed the incumbent LD Chair Ed Louden and his Vice Chair candidate Betty Jo Monroe, who were also from Okolona, which was, generally, the center of the district. At the time, I was 19 years old.
When LD Election Day arrived, we were hopeful for victory. As the incumbent, Mr. Louden had chosen as the site for the LD election the old Fibber McGee's Tavern, which had just a few years earlier relocated from a block west of Preston on Pinecroft Drive to its still-current location at the corner of Preston and Pinecroft. With the votes tallied, Carolyn and I were declared the winners and proceeded downtown to "Fourth Street" where the county-wide races were held for County Chair and Vice Chair. In those days, we did not have an At-Large person for each LD as we do now. Back then, there were seven or eight At-Large positions. Quite frankly, they were, by an unspoken agreement, somewhat reserved for some special interests which supported the Party apparatus with both personnel and greenbacks. The At-Large folks were nominated at the meeting and chosen a month later.
Thus began what has been a life-long involvement for me with the inner workings of the Democratic Party at both the county and state level. Later that summer, I attended the State Democratic Convention, held that year at the Capitol Plaza, a downtown Frankfort development built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As I have done at every State Democratic Convention then and since, I got myself nominated for a seat on the State Central Executive Committee. That year I ran for the "Person Under 30" position - it is now the "Person Under 35" position - from the Fourth Congressional District where I was a resident. As a note, my mother still lives in that residence, but her representative district in Congress has gone from the 4th to the 2nd and this year, finally, to the 3rd. As a second note, she is proudly displaying a yardsign for my favorite member of Congress, John Yarmuth, who has come to be known, thanks to a creative writer ironically from Lexington, as Congressman Awesome. But, I digress.
I lost that race to someone named Neil - who he was I don't really know. What I did know was that he was supported by higher-ups than me, most especially the governor, at the time, John Young Brown, Jr. Brown had been elected the previous year in a race where, in the Primary, I supported then-Lt. Governor Thelma Stovall, the first of the two female lieutenant governors, who served successive terms, from the Commonwealth. Governor Brown's November opponent was former Governor Louie B. Nunn, who, while a Republican, always seemed to be very well-respected in my family's home. I voted for Brown in the Fall race.
That loss at the state convention was the first of many I would go on to lose. Every four years, I'd get myself nominated, either at the Congressional Caucus level in the morning sessions or at the State At-Large levels in the afternoon. For two conventions in a row, Tom Barrow and I made our way to the microphone together, he to nominate me and me him. Neither of us were ever elected.
My continued success at losing state races was not mirrored at the local level. Due to a relocation, I found myself living in the 35th District, then generally a compact area from Broadway south to the Watterson and from the L&N RR east to Newburg Road. In that district, over time I served in the appointed position of Secretary as well as the elected positions of At-Large and, eventually in 2000, Legislative District Chair. That position is currently held by Colleen Younger. In 2001, then-Party Chair Larry Clark appointed me as the Jefferson County Party's By-Laws chair and a group of us proceeded to rewrite and codify the local By-Laws, passing them by the committee in late 2001. I held the By-Laws chair position for many years, even after my term on the Executive Committee expired in 2004, although I am no longer there.
It was 2004 when I finally won a seat on the State Committee at a convention held in Lexington. With the help and encouragement of Aaron Horner, his former wife Mary Ellen Weiderwohl, and Dr. Ted Shlechter, a South Louisville political activist, and others, including Jerry Lundergan and Dale Emmons, I unseated one of the two sitting "committeemen" and took my own seat as Third Congressional District Committeeman, alongside the late Leonard Gray, a friend and mentor who lived in the Chickasaw neighborhood of Louisville's West End.
In 2008, after a contested race, I was seated as a State At-Large member on the State Central Committee. I've enjoyed attending County Executive Committee meetings across the state, although generally not far from here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. I've been to meetings in Jefferson, Bullitt, Shelby, Franklin, Oldham, Trimble, Grayson, Powell, Mason, Caldwell, and Fulton counties, among others. My term as a State At-Large member comes to an end at the end of this month.
For several reasons, I've considered not running again in the committeeman position - at either the congressional level or the state level. I've encouraged a few others to make the race and I am confident several will. Among those who I think would make a good addition to the State Party are Charles Booker and Shawn Reilly, both of whom could run as either a committeeman or a committeeyouth. I've also told Abby Woehrle she would be a good addition. I know that my friends Allison Amon and Queenie Averette will seek re-election as committeewomen, so I am hopeful that should Abby run, she does so in the youth position. My options to run are limited to two - either as a committeeman at the congressional level or in an At-Large position at the statewide level, something I've really enjoyed these last four years.
Much of my enjoyment has been as a member of the By-Laws Committee on the State Party. I had served on this committee from 2004-2008 but was not reappointed until 2011 by the current Party Chair Dan Logsdon. Our committee has been in the process of a meticulous study of the By-Laws, article-by-article, under the direction of By-Laws Chair George Mills, who has done a wonderful job of keeping interest alive in a process which is tedious for many. I'm not one of those - I completely enjoy the work.
For that reason, I've decided to run again at the convention in two weeks. I will be seeking my old post of Third Congressional District Committeeman, the post I held from 2004 to 2008. To those of you who are eligible to vote in the Third Congressional District caucus on the morning of June 2nd, I am humbly asking for your support and vote. While I am not confident of a win, I am confident that I could serve well, especially in the completion of the task of rewriting those sections of the State Party By-Laws in need of amendment. If I lose, I may run in the afternoon session since it has been a tradition for me since 1980, 32 years ago.
Thanks for reading and let me know how you feel about my candidacy.
Some political trivia for you.
1. I mentioned "Fourth Street" above. Where was that? What was the name of the building where "Fourth Street" was housed?
2. The 45th District, once in Jefferson County, is now in Fayette County. Who was the last Jefferson County Democrat to serve as 45th District State Representative?
3. I mentioned Fibber McGee's Tavern in Okolona. For whom was it named and why does the answer have anything to do with the answer to Question #3?
4. I mentioned Governor Brown and Lieutenant Governor Stovall, who were opponents in the 1979 race. Who was Governor Brown's lieutenant governor running mate in 1979 and, as a bonus, what do the two of them - Brown and his running mate - have in common as far as subsequent races in Kentucky for lieutenant governor?
5. I mentioned that Governor Brown's Republican opponent was Louie B. Nunn. Who was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor that year? As a note, while this person lost that race, they presently serve in one of the most powerful positions of anyone in Kentucky.
5. This year's convention will be held at the State Fairgrounds, a name eschewed by state government officials. What is the official name, according to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, for this Louisville venue?
Post your answers in the Comments section below.