A new nonprofit organization aims to reinvent Democratic politics in the state.
The New Kentucky Project took its first steps into the spotlight Tuesday. The brainchild of Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones and former state auditor Adam Edelen, New Kentucky sports an ambitious mission: reintroducing Democrats to voters in all 120 counties through sustained grassroots outreach while actively recruiting a deep bench of fresh talent.
The group's first value statement reads: "We believe it is time for Kentucky to pursue new ideas to help modernize our state and create a new generation of leaders focused on progress of the Commonwealth as a whole, not decision making based upon partisan politics or self-interest."
Floated as a possible congressional candidate in 2015, Jones used a recent appearance before the party's annual soup bean supper to pull the fire alarm on Kentucky's increasingly rightward trajectory. An avowed progressive who regularly interacts with a largely conservative audience, he stresses the value of separating issues from personalities and engaging in good faith conversations with voters on the other end of the political spectrum.
"It really shouldn't be a sports radio host that has to do something like this," he said Tuesday. "This should be something that people who are out there doing the work in their communities are, but the problem is we live in a society to often where that stuff is not focused upon. So my goal is to help create a generation of people who care."
The press conference also marked the return of a one-time rising star in the party, Adam Edelen, whose political ambitions hit a snag last November when Republican Mike Harmon upset his re-election bid.
The Democratic duo insist they’re not out to remake the party apparatus but rather reengage with voters who feel disconnected from a top-heavy bureaucracy in Frankfort. But they have tapped a governing committee and hope to attract dues-paying members as they grow a new network of engaged citizens - from partisan party stalwarts to millennials less concerned about labels. At a press conference Tuesday, both downplayed suggestions that the initiative might serve as a launching pad for their own future political campaigns.
"This organization is not premised on being the Adam and Matt show," Edelen said. "This organization's foundation reason for being is to promote other leaders who are doing extraordinary things around the state that you'd never hear about unless we brought attention to them."
Both say they expect to take a back seat as the initiative expands its reach. So far, New Kentucky has attracted support from Fayette County councilwoman Angela Evans, Woodford County Rep. James Kay, Craig Greenberg with 21c Hotels, and recent U.S. Senate candidate Sellus Wilder.
The state Democratic Party has signaled full support for the effort, while Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson tells the Associated Press recent elections show Kentucky is a "red state becoming redder by the day."