Kentucky’s former state auditor and the host of the state’s most popular sports talk radio show have launched a new nonprofit political organization they say is focused more on generating ideas than electing people to office.
Former Auditor Adam Edelen and Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones formally launched the New Kentucky Project on Tuesday.
The group aims to have chapters in all 120 counties governed by an executive committee. Members will pay $20 annual dues, or $10 for college students. It will focus on education, health care, modernizing the state’s economy and other hot-button political issues in Kentucky.
The group signals the return of Edelen, the former state auditor who was preparing a run for the U.S. Senate before he lost re-election to former Republican state Rep. Mike Harmon.
And it is the first political work for Jones, whose show has become a must-stop for candidates seeking statewide office.
The two held a news conference Tuesday in downtown Lexington. Jones said the aim is to have “on the ground” representatives in each county.
“But when we picked somebody in Owsley County, I talked to somebody in Owsley County and said, ‘do you like this person,’ what is their opinion? Not whether or not they’ve given money to a party, not whether or not they’d ever run for office, but what do people think of this person,” he said.
Edelen cited millennials as a demographic group who get political info in more social media ways.
“We can get information out more effectively, I think, using a new politics that is a bottom-up model that I think will give us the ability to, not just to, help affect public opinion but to marshal people to perhaps lobby the legislature,” he said.
The group is a 501(c)(4) organization, which means it can’t participate in electioneering. The group could lobby, although a spokesman did not say whether they intend to.
Both Edelen and Jones are Democrats, and both said they don’t intend to use the group as a springboard for a future political run.
The group’s 28-member executive committee is also dominated by Democrats, including state Sen. Morgan McGarvey, former U.S. Senate candidate Sellus Wilder, Louisville attorney and 21c president Craig Greenberg, and Jefferson County Teachers Association president Brent McKim. There are no Republicans on the board.
The Kentucky Democratic party issued a statement of support for the new group.
“We support the mission of the New Kentucky Project and hope their efforts bring more excitement to important issues such as health care, education and job growth in Kentucky,” said a spokesperson.
The state Republican Party issued its own statement, calling the New Kentucky Project a “liberal” organization.
“As is evidenced by Sen. McConnell’s blowout win in 2014, Gov. Bevin’s resounding victory in 2015 and an overwhelming advantage in voter registration numbers over the past eight years, Kentucky is a red state that’s becoming redder by the day,” said a spokesperson. “No new liberal political organization will change that fact.”