Former state Auditor Adam Edelen and popular Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones are forming a new political organization outside the Kentucky Democratic Party to “do the work that the party should be doing, but doesn’t know how to,” according to a source familiar with the formation of the group.
Jones declined to comment about the group to IL and Edelen did not return an email and phone call, but our source says the two decided to form the group because the state party is failing to effectively fight for Democrats and has long been run by a “good old boy” network that has alienated them.
The yet-to-be-named organization is to mount a 120-county strategy to do organization and outreach in every part of the state, regardless of its political makeup. It has nearly completed a 20-member executive committee made up of three to four sitting state legislators, some local elected officials, and prominent individuals from outside the political sphere — with these members coming from all corners of the state and with interests in a wide array of public policy.
The source says Edelen and Jones — who will both run the group — will have two main goals: 1) create new policy ideas that are not just regurgitation of old Democratic talking points, and 2) create new leaders all over the state who are outside the party establishment.
For the last 13 years, KDP leadership has alternated between the families of former Gov. Steve Beshear and former party chairman Jerry Lundergan, who often have been as bitterly divided as the fractured ideological elements of the party’s base of voters. The Beshears recently won out with the election of state Rep. Sannie Overly as chair of the KDP last month — perhaps with the assist of a federal grand jury subpoenaing the records of Lundergan’s businesses and the campaign of his daughter, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Beshear’s son Andy Beshear won his election last year to become the state attorney general.
The new group likely will be a shot to the bow of both factions of the party establishment, but our source says Edelen and Jones believe it is necessary that voters see new energy, ideas and leaders from Democrats in order to stem the tide of Republican electoral victories in local governments, federal elections and Frankfort in recent years.
Edelen was one of those casualties in last year’s statewide elections, losing in a shocking upset to little-known and underfunded Republican challenger Mike Harmon, as Democratic nominee for governor Jack Conway dragged down the rest of his party’s ticket with a surprisingly large loss to current Gov. Matt Bevin. Edelen told IL shortly after his loss that the KDP needed a complete structural change in order to turn around the party’s fate — from leadership to campaign strategy to messaging.
Jones — who has the most listened-to radio show in the state and runs the widely read Kentucky Sports Radio blog focused on UK sports — considered running for Congress last year but ultimately decided to stick to his current job. On his radio show and new podcast, Jones has voiced similar criticisms of the Democratic Party establishment in Kentucky.
***** UPDATE 3:25 p.m. *****
KDP Chair Sannie Overly responded to this story with the following emailed statement, saying she looks forward to working with Edelen and Jones to build the party, and that the KDP’s top focus remains winning the House special elections next month to maintain the Democratic majority in that chamber:
“The Kentucky Democratic Party welcomes new ideas and new energy and we look forward to working with Matt and Adam to build our Party. Having been elected as KDP chair just a couple weeks ago, my priority right now is on beating back a mountain of out-of-state special interest money that Republicans are dumping into Kentucky to try to win four special House elections next month. I will be reaching out to Matt and Adam in hopes they will engage their new organization to help the hardworking rank-and-file Democrats who are raising money, knocking on doors and doing what they can to keep the House, which should be the top goal of every Democrat in the Commonwealth right now.”
***** UPDATE 8:40 p.m. *****
Edelen and Jones both confirmed the formation of their group elsewhere tonight. Edelen told The Courier-Journal that their group is intended to “augment” what the KDP is doing, and compared it to the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council, which pulled the national Democratic Party to the ideological center in the late-80s and early-90s. Jones confirmed the group on his Facebook page, calling it a “long-term project” and adding that “it is time to worry less about old school ‘Good Old Boy’ politics and more about actually helping people make their lives better, a fact that both political parties in Kentucky have abandoned.”