By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
A group of Estill County citizens met at the courthouse on Thursday, June 22, 2017 to discuss electing Democratic officers in Estill County’s 15 voting precincts. From those precincts, they will also elect an Estill County Democratic Executive Committee.
Victoria Stevens, a resident of Red Lick, is one of the primary organizers of the election. She says it all began when she asked during the last election where she could get campaign signs. She learned that the local DEC was not very active, which led to eventual conversations with other Democrats in the county.
Stevens said that because “next year’s elections are coming up fast,” a grassroots effort is important to revitalizing the Democrat’s executive committee for the county.
Some prominent Democratic leaders in Kentucky attended the meeting to provide guidance. George Mills (State Central Executive Committee Rules and Bylaws Chair), Brenda McClanahan (State Central Executive Committee at large), along with Ky. State Senator from District 13 Reggie Thomas were all present to advise local Democrats about electing a Democratic Executive Committee.
Shane Puckett has served as chairman of the Estill County Executive Committee, but he said the organization had become less active as some local party leaders aged and suffered health problems.
Puckett said that he is happy to join forces with those who have expressed interest in building the party up on a local level.
He also said that it “goes in cycles,” that once someone is elected to office by a particular party, that party tends to “lay low” for a few years, but when the opposing party elects a president, etc., organizers tend to rally.
Rhonda Childers was the first of local organizers to speak as she voiced her desire to “help move things forward in our county.”
“Together we have a voice, a bigger voice, a louder voice, a more powerful voice,” said Childers.
Stevens said that 55 percent of registered voters in Estill County are Democrats, but because the county traditionally votes Republican, people are often surprised to hear that.
Unbeknownst to those organizing for the election, the Estill County Democrat Women’s Club had also been busy getting reorganized. The two groups each learned that the other was forming at about the same time, and several members of the women’s club attended the meeting. Margaret Wood is the newly elected president of the women’s club and automatically becomes an honorary member of the county executive committee by virtue of her position.
While the women’s club focuses more on fundraising and social events, the executive committee centers on rules and mobilizing to get out the vote.
Margaret Wood said, “We should be focusing on issues and not identity politics, finding common ground for the common good.”
There are fifteen voting precincts within the county, and to form a Democratic Executive Committee, each precinct elects three precinct officers. There must be one male, one female and one person under 35 years old.
Once precinct officers are elected, they elect county executive committee members, which may include as few as 10 but no more than 20 people. Those members must be 50 percent women, 50 percent men. Those executive committee members elect a county chair and vice chair, which must consist of one man and one woman.
George Mills said, “I am very enthusiastic about this kind of committee.”
He said that it became apparent in the last few elections that the party cannot win with just the votes of metropolitan areas such as Lexington and Louisville. He said that there is a need for every county to have an active DEC.
Both precinct and executive committee elections will be held on July 18 at a location yet to be determined. Precinct officers will be elected first, then the executive committee elections will be held immediately following.
There are no nepotism rules, so members of the same family can be elected as precinct officers and as county executive committee members.
“I am really, really excited,” said Reggie Thomas. “Throughout the sixth congressional district, there is an enthusiasm and excitement I’ve never seen before.”
The Democrat Women’s Club will be meeting at the golf course at 5:30 p.m. on July 11, and on July 18, the precinct elections will be held at a location yet to be determined. George Mills will preside over the elections.
Organizers will also be conducting a dunking booth at the Estill County Fair, and they will be holding a postcard party to invite Democrats to come out to the precinct and DEC elections on July 18.