County Democrats hold first meeting of the year

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — Resurgence was the theme of the evening.

As the Dubois County Democrats — dubbed the DuCoDem Party — met for the first time this year at St. Benedict’s Brew Works in Ferdinand, conversations about party identity, growth and putting candidates on the ballot filled the air. Papers fluttered as some of the attendees filed to appear as an option on the primary ballots for the Democratic state convention, and Party Chairman Mike Kendall reminded those in attendance that the party still needed people to run for some local offices. The deadline to file is today.

“It’s an entirely different party,” Kendall said in his opening remarks. “At the [party] election at which I was elected chairman, I was the third or fourth youngest person in the room at age 69. You look around this room today and you’ll see that’s far from true. When I was elected, there were no Hispanics in the party. Now there are. When I was elected, there were no people from Huntingburg positions of power in the party. Now there are. When I was elected, there was nobody representing the LGBT community in leadership position in the party. Now there are. When I was elected, one of the first things I heard when talking to some old workers was that they weren’t sure they were welcome. Now they are, and they’re in the party, and they’re in leadership.”

The growth in the party, Kendall said, is due to the connection between older members of the party like himself and the former chairman and the younger generation who is joining the party to take up the cause. Together, Kendall said, the generations can rebuild the Democratic party in Dubois County and challenge Republicans.

“This is not an attempt to push older people out of the party,” Kendall said. “This is an attempt to take the knowledge and wisdom and experience of the older people and let the younger people learn it ... and then hear all the ideas [the younger people] have got and their plans for how to reach people and how to use communications to reach them and to mobilize.”

During the meeting, those who have already filed to run in this year’s election introduced themselves. Judge Nathan Verkamp is running for re-election; Kendall, Matt Brosmer and Mikayla Granados are running for County Council; and Teresa Kendall is challenging State Rep. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, for his seat in the state legislature.

Outside the local party, Spencer County native Thomasina Marsili will challenge U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Newburgh, for his seat representing Indiana’s eighth district in Washington, D.C.

“I’m a proud Democrat,” Marsili said in her speech to the party. “Because there’s a lot to be proud of.”

As examples, she listed President Woodrow Wilson supporting the 19th Amendment that opened the vote to women, Franklin Delano Roosevelt developing the New Deal to lift the country out of the Great Depression and John F. Kennedy’s quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

“I am for the Democratic Party because it has been for the working people in the area,” she said in an interview prior to her remarks.

Marsili was born in Perry County and raised in Spencer County. She currently resides in Owen County.

“I think being born here, raised here and staying here, you get the eye to see where we were and where we can be again,” she said.

She recalled that the job she had in high school in the early 1990s paid a little over $8 per hour. Now, she said, that same job pays $7.25. Back then, she said, people were hopeful. Now, as she travels on the campaign trail, she sees that hope replaced by disdain. She wants to restore the area to the way it was when she was growing up.

“It is the burden of my generation to fix what we’ve been given,” she said.

Marsili’s platform includes universal pre-K, the restoration of labor unions and guaranteed health care coverage and affordable prescriptions. More information on Marsili can be found at hopein8.com.

The evening also featured Janet Rummel, director of community initiatives at the Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement. Rummel shared the vision of the Center for Rural Engagement and some of the projects the center has partnered with local organizations to put on in Dubois County.

Some of the projects include artistic events in Huntingburg through a partnership with the Rural Arts Series, master classes led by students from the IU Jacobs School of Music at Southridge High School and a partnership with between Huntingburg and the IU Maurer School of Law to bring immigration attorney Christine Popp to Dubois County.

“We aren’t consultants,” Rummel said. “We don’t bring people into communities to tell you what you should be doing. We work with communities to find out what your assets are, what your challenges might be, how do you envision yourself moving forward and what do you want to see for your communities. And then we partner. We go back to our institution and we partner with faculty, with graduate students, even with undergraduate volunteers to help you.”

Rummel said she plans to hold several discussions with organizations around Dubois County to look for additional opportunities for partnerships.

Kendall closed the meeting by reminding the party that it’s time to take a stand on the issues, to get involved and to put candidates on the ballot for every race in every election.

“And we’ll make a difference,” he said. “We’ll make a difference in people’s lives and make this a better place to live and raise kids.”

The DuCoDem Party will hold First Thursday meetings each month at similar venues to St. Benedict’s Brew Works. First Thursday meetings will be public and rotate between Ferdinand, Huntingburg and Jasper each quarter through January 2021. The party also plans to host community events and forums to help Dubois County residents be informed on the issues. For the first event, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, a Republican, will speak at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18 about school funding and the future for rural schools like those in Dubois County.




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