Kentucky group aimed at changing politics dissolves

By BRUCE SCHREINER Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky political organization — backed by a pair of prominent names and started amid considerable fanfare — has dissolved quietly more than two years after being formed as a way to promote new ideas and recruit people to put those ideas into action.
Ex-state Auditor Adam Edelen and Matt Jones, host of a popular sports talk show in Kentucky, announced the formation of the New Kentucky Project in August 2016. The goal, they said, was to organize chapters statewide to spur a groundswell of ideas and boost grassroots involvement.
Now, Edelen is running in a hotly contested Democratic primary for governor. Jones continues his talk show, which at times crosses over into politics, and is seen as a potential 2020 Democratic candidate for the seat held by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Jones said Wednesday he was sorry to see the political organization dissolve, but said its legacy will be having brought together a network of people working on common goals and ideas.
“It brought to light people throughout the state who are doing really good work that hadn’t had much of a platform,” he said in a phone interview.
The organization disbanded after Edelen launched his gubernatorial bid.
Edelen didn’t immediately respond to an email Wednesday seeking comment, but he told the Lexington Herald-Leader the decision to dissolve was “one largely made by economics.”
He told the Lexington newspaper, the first to report the organization’s disbandment, that the project ultimately didn’t make enough money to sustain itself.
While it helped bring new people into the political process, the organization was much less successful in cutting through today’s hyper-partisanship, Jones said.
“What became difficult is politics now is such a zero-sum game,” he said. “One side wins, the other side loses. … And when you try to say, ‘Let’s do things that are beyond winning elections,’ people just aren’t as interested, unfortunately.”
From the outset, Edelen and Jones said the organization would not try to elect anyone to office, but acknowledged it would “lean Democratic” with a core set of values promoting education, affordable health care and pro-labor policies. The group made no political donations.
The group’s events also gave Edelen and Jones a platform to interact with progressives at a time when Republicans dominate Kentucky’s political landscape.
When the organization started, there were Republicans who liked the concept and wanted to work with the group, Jones said.
“But it was very difficult for them because when your party’s in charge, there’s very little incentive to kind of reach out to the other side.”

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