Democratic Party seeks to

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2000

be ‘the party of the people’


Managing Editor

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Oct. 21, 2000 10 PM

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three part series focusing on the upcoming election. We will explore the local Democratic Party and its philosophy on Wednesday.

When George W. Bush and Al Gore discuss their positions on issues, often defined by their party platforms, local politicians aren’t necessarily in agreement with them – even when they’re members of the same party.

In local elections in Pike County, unlike in national and state elections, party politics is harder to define and it’s certainly harder to get a read on candidates using party affiliation as the major defining factor.

"What you find in local elections is that elections are usually about the candidates as individuals, not the parties the candidates represent," said Dr. John Key, Pike County Superintendent of Education and acting chairman of the Pike County Democratic Party.

That said, party selection is important for candidates, said Key, noting that people often define themselves based on the parties they serve.

"We support our Democratic candidates as a collective group," Key said. "We believe in our party and we see it as the party of the people."

Besides historical factors and the belief that the Democratic Party is the party of the working man and woman, Key sees the basic party’s tradition and history of helping people as a defining issue in his party.

"This is a party that has shown that it traditionally listens to and wants to respond to the needs of the various publics in the community," he said. "We want to help all people of the community and that is one of the ways we have come to define our role as a party."

The issues that define the party, though, are not in stone on the local level.

"We don’t have a specific local platform," he said. "That’s something that’s done on a state and national level, though there are certainly times when many of us locally don’t always agree completely with those positions. What you see in those cases is a hybridization of the party philosophy where local candidates may refine their positions on issues, which often do not fall in line with the national and state platforms."

Key said these decisions not to support certain aspects of the state and national platform are individually based.

"There are things that our party believe in on the national level that I do not and will not go for," he said. "But that doesn’t mean that as a whole I don’t support the party and its ideology in general."

Key said there has been some discussion about defining the local issues and developing a platform, but, he added, "That certainly won’t happen prior to this election."

Defining the party philosophy isn’t easy, but Key said the best rule of thumb on what the Democratic Party believes in on a local level is that which is best for the most people.

"We believe in many of the programs our party has been instrumental in establishing over the years on a state and national level," Key said. "We take the approach that we are going to look at the issues and see what’s best for the most people and we will support those things. We support the people and the security of the people from all walks of life."

And once Democrats take office, party affiliation is not the most important thing to most office holders.

"No matter who is elected in other positions, we work to resolve our conflicts and problems and work together, whether it’s with other Democrats or Republicans," he said. "We seek to put aside our squabbles and differences and do the right thing for the community. We may see things differently, but we try to work through those differences and value our diversity in thought."

That said, Key said members of his party should support one another in elections, and the list of Democratic candidates who will be up for election are Willie Thomas, candidate for county commissioner in District 1; Sherrill Calhoun, candidate for county commissioner in District 3; Ray Goodson, candidate for county commissioner in District 4; Charlie Harris, candidate for county commissioner in District 5; Karen Berry, candidate for county commissioner in District 6; the Rev. Herbert Reynolds, candidate for county school board in District 5; Allen Register, candidate for county school board in District 6; William Stone, candidate for Pike County Probate Judge; Steven Green, candidate for constable in Precinct 18; John Sanders Jr, candidate for Constable in Precinct 5; and Joe Lewis, candidate for constable in Precinct 2.

"As a group the Pike County Democratic Party supports its own candidates," Key said. "We stand behind them."