By Bill Robinson
On Friday afternoon, local Democrats jammed into the small office at the corner of Main and Second streets that serves as their Madison County campaign headquarters.
Shortly after 3 p.m., U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Sixth Dist., wearing a University of Kentucky shirt, arrived to cheers and applause.
Although there was barely enough room to turn around, Chandler managed to ease his way through the crowd shaking hands, exchanging hugs and pats on the back.
Brooks Stumbo, the Madison County party chair introduced local candidates, state Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, and Bud Montgomery of Berea, the Democratic candidate in the House of Representative’s 36th District.
Then he invited Chandler to speak.
“We need to work hard,” the congressman said. “My race is important just as Rita and Bud’s races are important."
“You all have televisions, so you see all the brutal ads that are being run,” he said.
“Politicians have been know to stretch the truth over the years,” Chandler said,
“but some ads they’re running these days don’t have even a scintilla of truth to them.”
Ads running is support of Republican candidates claim they are the defenders of Medicare, the congressman said, but the Republicans “really want to get rid of Medicare. And that’s nothing new for them.”
To counter the negative advertising, Chandler urged local party workers to go door to door and make other personal contacts, “so we can get the truth out there.”
The changes Republicans want to make to Medicare would be “a blow to our seniors and a blow to the middle class,” he said.
Chandler said he had done “his dead-level best” to bring resources to Madison County.
“I may be wearing a UK shirt,” he said, but I’m an EKU man. We’ve really gone to bat for EKU because it provides employment and educational opportunities that are crucial to Madison County.”
The Republicans want to cut student loans and grants, Chandler said, “and we can’t have that.”
Chandler also said he was working to save jobs at the Blue Grass Army Depot, which may lose about 310 employees next year.
“We’ve got to save those jobs at the depot, and grow new jobs at the depot,” he said.
There was a momentary pause as Chandler concluded and listeners waited to see if he would resume speaking before they gave customary applause. But the silence was broken by the booming voice of a young man who appeared to be making a video recording with a cell phone.
“Congressman, why to do refuse to debate Andy Barr?” He called out.
A heavier silence fell on the room as Chandler looked away.
The young man continued, “Congressman, why are you trying to scare the elderly with your comments about Medicare?”
“You can tell he’s from the other side,” an older woman said.
Then a man in the back of the room called out,“How can you debate someone who doesn’t know a coal miner from a coal mine owner?”
Stumbo then spoke up and said, “It’s time to go outside and cut the ribbon.”
As most in the crowd slowly made their way out the door, most ignored the heckler. But the man in the back spoke up again.
“Save PBS (the Public Broadcasting Service that receives federal funds),” he said.
“Yes. Save Big Bird,” a woman said.
By then most people had moved outside where Chandler continued to speak with well wishers after cutting a ceremonial ribbon.
Bill Robinson can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or at 624-6690.