Former state Auditor Adam Edelen and Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones on Tuesday formally launched a political movement with a hope of drawing fresh ideas and new leaders behind a moderate and progressive political agenda.
The group, which Edelen and Jones have been planning since early this year, is called the New Kentucky Project.
Jones called it “a 120-county organization that has set about to create new ideas and new leaders, to help not only those to come up with policy ideas that we believe are important for the future, but equally as importantly to give support to people who are trying to make their communities better.”
“Our thought is we need to upset the applecart, we need to go bottom-up rather than top-down,” Edelen said.
Both Edelen and Jones are Democrats, as are members of the New Kentucky Project’s more than 20-member board. And the pair said in an interview before Tuesday’s announcement that they welcome Republican members and that they are not trying to supplant the work of the Kentucky Democratic party.
Instead, they said they hope to use Edelen’s experience in government and Jones’ experience in building a statewide audience to build a grassroots organization that will reform a political process distinguished by negative campaigns that have failed to energize moderate or progressive voters.
“What we are trying to do in the political sphere is exactly what Matt has done with his sports program,” Edelen said. “Matt has built community … Matt’s made his listeners and viewers feel as if they are part of something larger than themselves.”
Edelen, who narrowly lost re-election as state auditor last November, described the problem this way: “I think the system has become hyper-partisan and it’s largely about the ideas of the hard right and people responding to that, particularly on my side, but without offering new ideas and new leaders.”
Edelen said the New Kentucky Project has a set of values that includes: access to affordable and quality health care for every Kentuckian, making a “world class education” available to every child, providing jobs to any worker who wants one regardless of where the worker lives, and making Internet access available to every Kentuckian.
New Kentucky Project was actually incorporated as a nonprofit organization and started its website nearly four months ago. It now has an office in downtown Lexington and staff. Edelen said its executive committee members include Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, Louisville Metro Council President David Yates and 21c Museum Hotels President Craig Greenberg.
Edelen said, “While certainly I am a Democrat, this organization will not be exclusively Democratic.” And he stressed that the group’s filing status prevents it from electioneering and it is not a super PAC that will raise funds for independent advertising campaigns for and against candidates.
Jones said, “I am going to be recruiting Republicans and say, ‘You can be a Republican. And if you agree with these principles that we stand for – education, health care worker’s rights and equality – work with us. If you are a Republican, that’s fine with me.”
But Tres Watson, spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said in a statement earlier Tuesday that big Republican wins in statewide elections and gains in GOP voter registration in recent years show that Kentucky voters are enthusiastic about Republican leadership. “Kentucky is a red state that’s becoming redder by the day. No new liberal political organization will change that fact,” Watson said.
Jones and Edelen said they did not create New Kentucky Project with the intention of promoting possible future candidacies for themselves. “The reason we are doing this is not about us, it’s to make sure there are other people who are like-minded who are able in the future to succeed …” Jones said. “Right now I’m not so sure how many people outside the right wing of the Republican Party can run and win a statewide office any time soon.”
This story will be updated.