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Shelby County Democrats’ dinner entree: Roasted McConnell

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Jefferson Jackson Dinner draws wide range of speakers

By Lisa King

The importance of voting, the significance of upcoming elections, the problem of prescription drug abuse in Kentucky and even unclaimed money were all topics touched upon by Democrats at Wednesday night’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner at Claudia Sanders Dinner House.
The event, the primary fundraiser for the Shelby County Democratic Party, drew about 200 from Shelby and surrounding counties and even farther-flung areas.

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Some notable figures addressed the group, including U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, the keynote speaker, Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, who served as master of ceremonies.

Also speaking were Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes, Attorney General Jack Conway, State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach and State Auditor Adam Edelen.

Local Democrats who attended included Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty, Shelbyville City Council members Donna Eaton, Shane Suttor and Mike Zoeller, magistrates Hubie Pollett, Eddie Kingsolver and Tony Carris, Sheriff Mike Armstrong, County Clerk Sue Carole Perry, Jailer Bobby Waits, school board members Doug Butler and Allen Phillips and Simpsonville City Administrator David Eaton.

Shelby County Democratic Party Chair Fielding Ballard kicked off the event by remarking on the merits of President Andrew Jackson, and how he epitomized the qualities for which the Democratic Party stands, but those who followed turned that atmosphere around as they took turns roasting Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Or maybe not so negative, because no one seemed to be taking offense at the jokes about McConnell.

Stumbo entertained the crowd with a story about his grandfather, Wayne Stumbo, who was a coal miner.

“He was the most solid Democrat I ever saw in my life,” Stumbo said. “They were kidding him one day down at the service station about how strong a Democrat he was, and they said, 'Wayne, if the Devil ran, you'd vote for him as a Democrat, wouldn't you?' He thought about it for a minute and said, 'Not in the primary, I wouldn't.'”

Yarmuth, a Louisville native and Yale University graduate who founded the weekly paper Louisville Eccentric Observer in 1990 and owned it until 2003, is un his fourth term representing Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District.

“I may not have the great fortune to represent the great people of Shelby County, but as Kentuckians, we have plenty in common,” he told the crowd. “We love basketball and bourbon, and we have a mutual dislike of Mitch McConnell.”

Yarmuth spoke more seriously about the election coming up next year.

“The election in 2014 is not just about who is going to represent us; this is a national election,” he said. “This will be the most significant election in 2014. It will be essentially a presidential election. The attention of the nation will be on it, and by God, there's not going to be anybody who sheds more blood, sweat and tears next year, working for a Democratic victory in the United States senate race than I will be, and I hope all of you will join me.”

Grimes, who has been mentioned as a potential opponent for McConnell, looked around the room, said she was impressed with the showing of Democrats from around the area.

“Thank you to those in northern Kentucky all the way over to Anderson and Frankort [for attending],” she said. “We've got Bourbon County represented here tonight, Spencer and especially Shelby County.”

Grimes said Shelby County was special to her because it’s the home of her close friend and mentor, Martha Layne Collins, and because it’s county clerk, Sue Carole Perry, assisted her on working on voting issues.

“We've been doing great things in the office of secretary of state, making sure that all eligible Kentuckians have access to the ballot box. That's what Democracy is all about,” she said.

Grimes asked the crowd, “Do you recall that presidential election back in 2004 when that secretary of state down in Florida by the name of Katherine Harris determined that thousands of overseas ballots didn’t need to be counted?”

Other Democrats who outlined their accomplishments included Hollenbach, who said he was proud of being able to get unclaimed money back to its owners

“The tricky part is getting back to them; I set a pretty ambitious goal to get money back to the people,” he said. “So far, have gotten back eighty-one million, but my goal is to make it one hundred million.”

Conway touted the success of Kentucky’s Cyber Crime Unit.

“The cyber crime unit we created is now a model for the entire country,” he said. “We have taken four hundred thousand porn images of children off the Internet in the past three years alone. We've done it with a conviction rate of one-hundred percent.”

Conway also spoke emotionally about traveling around the state, speaking to students at all grade levels about the dangers of becoming involved with prescription pain killers.

“I think about a little girl in Winchester who came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Conway, my parents were pill heads,. So I had to go live with my aunt and uncle, but they died, and so now I live with my cousin,’” he said.

Edelen talked of walking a long, hard campaign trail and getting to know the people first hand, including one woman who got right to the point when she answered the door.

“She said state your business, so I said, ‘Well, ma'am, my name is Adam Edelen, I've come a long way, and I'm running to be your taxpayer watchdog, and I guess my business is asking for your vote,’” Edelen said. “She said, ‘Honey, you've got it, but, as long as I've got you here, my business is selling quilts and pickled beets.’ My mother didn't raise a fool. Fifty-five dollars later, I had a quilt and a jar of pickled beets.”