Democrats seek base in Anniston and Calhoun County
by Brian Anderson
Nov 22, 2013 | 3663 views |  0 comments | 79 79 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Calhoun County Probate Judge Arthur Murray (left) visits with Mark Kennedy, leader of a group called Alabama Democratic Majority, in Anniston on Thursday. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Former Calhoun County Probate Judge Arthur Murray (left) visits with Mark Kennedy, leader of a group called Alabama Democratic Majority, in Anniston on Thursday. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
It’s a sign in need of a home.

That’s how Sheila Gilbert, chairwoman of the Calhoun County Democratic Party, described the banner for the organization’s non-existent headquarters, hanging on the wall at the Classic Too on Noble Street Thursday night during the party’s monthly meeting.

“I know there are people here tonight that can donate money,” Gilbert said. “Or you know someone who has an old office or building we can rent. We’re going to need that space for 2014.”

While the local party may be searching for a home base, Mark Kennedy, the chairman of a group known as Alabama Democratic Majority and Thursday’s guest speaker, said Calhoun County and Anniston are going to be focal points in 2014, as he campaigns to wrest seats away from the Republican supermajority in Montgomery and win back local offices.

“We’re opening up a field office here in Anniston,” Kennedy announced Thursday. “There are things the Republicans are doing that aren’t popular with people here, the working families and people who support education.”

Currently, though, elected Democrats are scarce in Calhoun County, with just Revenue Commissioner Karen Roper and County Commissioner Rudy Abbott the sole remaining Democrats elected in the last election who haven’t switched chairs.

“We know there are a lot of people here who we haven’t heard from,” Gilbert said. “But they’re watching, and taking notes, and you’re going to know them next year.”

Thursday’s meeting was light on actual Democratic candidates, though, with just Calhoun County Commissioner Fred Wilson and state Rep. Barbara Boyd in attendance. But Kennedy said statewide, his party will soon announce candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state. Gilbert said more local candidates will also be announced in the upcoming months.

Kennedy’s speech focused on strategy for 2014, and said the party needed to target working class average Americans, who want to see equality and better education, something he said the Republican supermajority has largely ignored.

“If you want four more years of the Republicans turning the state into a country club, vote Republican,” Kennedy said. “But if you want to see change that’s better for our future, and for our children’s future, you need to come with us, and you need to support Democratic candidates.”

Kennedy formed the Alabama Democratic Majority earlier this year after leaving the state party, who at one point this year couldn’t afford to keep the lights on at its headquarters in Montgomery. Kennedy said his leaving did not represent a split in the Democratic Party in Alabama though, and he continues to support the state party.

Gilbert said diversity was a key part of what the Democratic party hopes will be a winning strategy next year. Thursday she introduced native Mexican and Anniston resident Rafael Alvarez to the organization, who has been helping campaign for the party in Calhoun County’s Hispanic communities.

“I tell them we need to vote Democrat,” said Alvarez, who became a U.S. citizen in 2010. “We don’t like the Republicans ideas. Like on immigration, they attack us. They’re not good for us.”

Kennedy said he hopes the Anniston field office will be open before the end of the year, and he’ll start campaigning heavily not just for candidates, but to educate residents on the new voter ID laws in the state.

“I’m going to be spending a lot of time in Anniston,” Kennedy said.

Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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