Summer in Knox County

Kathy Tate, our super volunteer and a member of the KCDP executive committee, spent countless hours during summer 2019 staffing the party’s tables at local festivals. Kathy and our many other volunteers, who are too numerous to name, staffed these tables to meet voters, talk about issues, and show friendly Democratic faces to the community. This is Kathy’s report of the Democratic summer in Knox County.

Kathy Tate (left) with Julia Warga, candidate for Mount Vernon city council, at the Knox County Fair

Knox County Democrats made themselves known this summer. Volunteers staffed First Friday tables, the Knox County Fair booth, and a booth at the Dan Emmett Festival. For the most part, we were treated with respect and surprise that there was a Democratic presence. However, there were some people, following the lead of Donald Trump, who made nasty comments.  We put on our invisible Teflon suits and let the negativity slide off of us.

To lighten the atmosphere at the fair, we had a “vote for your favorite fair food” poll. People wrote their favorite food on the back of a ticket and results were be tallied each day with a grand total at the end of the week.  There were a total of 279 votes for 44 different items. The final results for the top 10 were:

1 Fries
2 Funnel cake
3 Stromboli
4 Porkettes
5 Ice Cream
6 Dippin Dots
7 Elephant Ears
8 Four way tie – Cotton Candy, Indian Bread, Pizza, Pulled Pork Nachos

We had a couple of interesting interactions with some teenagers. One young man came up to the table, pointed at his hat and asked “What do you think of this?” I looked at him and said, “It was made in China.”,He had an interesting stunned look. Another young man observed our “Resist” bumper stickers and asked why we had a bumper sticker that said, “racist.” After I explained that racist was spelled differently, and his friends started laughing, he walked away.

Our sign-up sheets over the summer to find volunteers and people who wanted to be kept informed of democratic events yielded more than 50 names. Hopefully, this will result in volunteers for next year’s presidential, congressional, and state legislative elections in addition to the local elections. We are looking for candidates who will run for office. Petitions to be on the primary ballot need to be filed with the Board of Elections by December 19. 

We were able to register some new voters and change of address registrations at all of the events. Some people took the forms with them. We suggested that everyone check their registration status no matter when they last voted. We were able to use phones and tablets to confirm some of their registrations at the tables.

All in all, we had a productive summer. Thank you to all of the volunteers who manned the tables and booth.

Get your 2016 sample ballot

Vote blue up and down the ticket! Download your sample ballot, print it, take it to the polls. Spread it far and wide.

2016 Endorsed Democratic Candidates
Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine: for President and Vice President
Ted Strickland: for Senator
Roy Rich: for Congress
John Russell: for State Representative
Mary Chapa: for Knox County Commissioner
Antoinette Miranda: for State Board of Education
Judge John P. O’Donnell: for Ohio Supreme Court
Judge Cynthia Rice: for Ohio Supreme Court
Earle Wise: for Judge of the Fifth District Court of Appeals

KCDP hosts Summer Democratic Picnic

summer picnic graphic2Join your Knox County Democratic friends for KCDP’s 2016 Summer Democratic Picnic!

The relaxed, informal gathering will take place on Tuesday, August 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at Hiawatha Park Pavilion, 100 Sychar Road in Mount Vernon. Shannon Smith will provide acoustic entertainment, and 2016 candidates will be in attendance.

KCDP will provide sandwiches and bottled water. Attendees are asked to bring a covered dish to share and a favorite non-alcoholic beverage.

The suggested donation of $20 will benefit KCDP in this important election year. Students and children may attend free of charge.

An RSVP is suggested but not required. Email to RSVP or for more information.

KCDP endorses fall candidate slate

At its May monthly meeting, the Knox County Democratic Party executive committee endorsed the slate of candidates appearing on the fall 2016 general election ballot.

Winning endorsements were:

  • Mary Chapa, candidate for Knox County commissioner;
  • John Russell, candidate for Ohio state representative from the 68th district;
  • Earle Wise, candidate for fifth circuit court of appeals judge;
  • John O’Donnell, candidate for Ohio Supreme Court justice;
  • Cynthia Rice, candidate for Ohio Supreme Court justice;
  • Roy Rich, candidate for U.S. representative from the 7th district; and
  • Ted Strickland, candidate for U.S. senator.

An endorsement of the Democratic presidential nominee will be offered after the party’s nominating convention has concluded.

“Once again, the Democratic Party has an impressive array of candidates, with fresh ideas and the energy to implement them,” said Adam Gilson, KCDP chairman. “In Mary Chapa and John Russell, we have youth and vision on our side. In John O’Donnell and Cynthia Rice, we have highly accomplished jurists who are the only Supreme Court candidates to be recommended by the Ohio Bar Association. From the top of the ticket to the bottom, our candidates are highly qualified and motivated individuals who will work in the best interests of all Knox Countians and all Ohioans.”

On rigged elections, getting involved, and being your party

2016 is being called the year of the outsider–whether it’s the outsider Donald Trump stirring up nativist resentment and bigotry, worrying his Republican party establishment, or whether it’s the outsider Bernie Sanders, coming off a lifetime of independence to try to claim the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

Along with that rise of the outsider have come complaints that the system is rigged–that the Democratic Party is run by an establishment fueled by a love for big money and an insular mentality that keeps these outsiders firmly on the outside. Liberals, progressives, and other lefties who are the natural constituency of the Democratic Party have shied away from a partisan label, angry that the Democratic establishment rigs elections against their interests.

This sentiment is so frustrating to me, as a Democratic Party chairman in a rural, red county. From my view as somebody who got involved one day just because he decided it was time, the system is anything but rigged. The outsiders just don’t realize how to get inside and to make the party reflect their views.

Here’s a primer for those who don’t know how the party is structured. In every county in Ohio, the Democratic Party is governed by an executive committee. The makeup of that executive committee changes from county to county, but its organization begins with the election of a central committee in the primary election. Each precinct elects one member of the central committee. Here in Knox County, every one of those central committee members joins the executive committee, which then adds other individuals to the group: Democrats who have been elected to offices on the partisan ballot, plus up to twelve at-large members nominated by the elected chairman.

Here’s the not-so-secret secret about county Democratic parties across the country: There are thousands and thousands of vacant precinct committee seats that are there for the taking by people who want to get involved. It’s no different in Knox County. Of the 51 precincts in Knox County, 17 have sitting precinct committee people. Seventeen. That’s it. That’s 34 vacancies. Two-thirds of the precincts have nobody serving as Democratic precinct committee people.

What’s it take to get onto the central committee? Not much at all: Just a few minutes, a sheet of paper, a pen, and a desire to get involved.

No later than 90 days before the primary election in the even-numbered year, somebody who wants to run for a  seat on the central committee needs only to download form 2-M from the Ohio secretary of state, fill it in, sign it, and drop it off at the Knox County Board of Elections at 117 East High Street, Suite 210, in Mount Vernon. If only one form has been submitted for that seat, then, congratulations to the filer! Just one vote in the election guarantees a spot on the central committee. If two or more individuals have filed forms, then it’s an actual race. The candidates would then talk to primary election voters and make their respective cases for why they should be elected to the leadership of the county party, and one will be the victor.

For 34 precincts, all it would’ve taken would’ve been a sheet of paper, a pen, and a few minutes to become part of party leadership. It really is that simple.

I am being up-front and transparent about this, knowing that, in the spring of 2018, when my term as chair ends and I am up for reelection if I choose to go that route, my reelection could be thwarted by a group of outsiders who could out-organize me, get themselves elected to the central committee, and elect one of their own as chair. And if that should happen, and I should lose my seat, that would be okay. That’s how democracy works. That’s how our party organizes itself.

And when people get involved at the local level, run for precinct committee seats, choose a leader, hold monthly meetings, pass resolutions, raise money, recruit candidates, campaign, and ultimately win elections, something amazing happens: They become the party. The party is not some nefarious establishment, sitting in smoke-filled rooms and holding onto power with a death-grip. The party is you. And the party is me. The party is your neighbor and the person across town who decided to get involved. There are no dues to pay, no loyalty tests, no secret handshakes. There’s just a form, and a desire to get involved.

Those who are on the outside looking in aren’t staring at bullet-proof glass. They’re staring at thin air. There really is no barrier to becoming part of the party at its grassroots and working to make the party reflective of its base. Or, at least, there’s no barrier except a will to put in the work necessary.

Getting organized is hard work. Winning elections is even harder. But as the Knox County Democratic Party chairman since November 2011, I welcome any and all progressives who want to get involved and do that work. The party can’t exist without you.

-Adam Gilson
Chairman, Knox County Democratic Party

KCDW town hall explores substance abuse in Knox County

Substance abuse is a growing problem in rural America–and Knox County is not immune from this problem. The Knox County Democratic Women (KCDW) will host a town hall exploring the causes of substance abuse, treatment options, and treatment of substance abuse in the judicial system.

The town hall will be held on Tuesday, April 26, at the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, 201 North Mulberry Street. The evening begins with refreshments, a meet and greet, and a presentation of results of the PRIDE (Parents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education) survey at 6:30 p.m.

The town hall forum, which begins at 7:00 p.m., features panelists Bill Seder, superintendent of Mount Vernon City Schools; Jeff Williams, executive director of the Freedom Center; and Judge John Thatcher of the Knox County Court of Common Pleas. Following presentations, the town hall will open to a question and answer session with the panelists. Community members can find information about how to become involved in combating substance abuse.

All are welcome at this nonpartisan town hall.

KCDP central and executive committees organize for 2016-18

The four officers of the Knox County Democratic Party (KCDP) were reelected to new two-year terms as the KCDP central and executive committees convened to reorganize for their 2016-18 term. At its April 12 reorganization, the KCDP executive committee reelected Adam Gilson as chairman, Mary Rugola-Dye as vice chairwoman, Sara Schaaf as secretary, and Reba Borchers as treasurer. Elected as officers of the central committee were Adam Gilson as chairman, Mary Chapa as vice chairwoman, Sara Schaaf as secretary, and Reba Borchers as treasurer.

Thirty-two executive committee members were sworn in at the organization to run the daily affairs of the party. The executive committee membership includes the sixteen members of the central committee elected in the March 15 primary, two central committee members appointed during the meeting to vacant precincts, six Democrats elected to partisan office in Knox County, and eight additional at-large members appointed during the meeting. Six of the members are joining the executive committee for the first time.

The members of the 2016-18 executive committee are as follows:

Jim Arnott, Mount Vernon 4A
Daniel Baker, at-large
Sam Barone, ex officio, Mount Vernon first-ward council
Paula Barone, Mount Vernon 1A
John Booth, ex officio, Mount Vernon at-large council
Reba Borchers, Mount Vernon 3C
Mary Chapa, Howard E
Donna Clark-Cetek, at-large
Ted Dingler, Clinton A
Nicole Ferris, Monroe A
Irene Gadd, Mount Vernon 1B
Adam Gilson, Mount Vernon 1C
Duane Grassbaugh, Monroe B
Jill Grubb, Gambier
Ann Hanrahan, Mount Vernon 1A
Mary Hayes, at-large
Dave Janiszewski, Clinton B
Susan Kahrl, ex officio Mount Vernon at-large council
Joyce Klein, ex officio, KCDW co-president
Anton (Bud) Krutsch, ex officio, Mount Vernon treasurer
Suzanne MacLean, Howard D
Richard Mavis, ex officio, Mount Vernon mayor
Linda Michaels, College
Susan Oswalt, Centerburg
Bobbie Rawson, at-large
Dennis Rawson, Brown
Mary Rugola-Dye, ex officio, ODP central committee
Sara Schaaf, Morgan
Joyce Skocic, Mount Vernon 3B
Tom Stamp, at-large
Jenny Stratton, at-large
Jim Zak, Gambier A

John Russell announces candidacy for state representative

6213735Produce farmer John Russell of Galena announced his candidacy for the 68th District State Representative seat, the only Democrat to do so by the filing deadline last Wednesday.

“A lot of people feel stuck in a tough economy, I want to better their chances to make it,” Russell said. “I think people need a representative that will work as hard as they do.”

In a district that’s never been won by Democrats, Russell certainly has work to do.

“Lots of my friends are Republicans. I guess they still like me,” he said.

The owner and operator of Fall Creek Farm, Russell followed the family tradition of small-business ownership. His roots go back to Columbiana County where his grandfather tended a dairy herd and his father ran a small savings and loan.

“Small businesses help drive our economy, and I feel lucky to have that in my family,” he said.

Russell graduated from Cornell University with a degree in agricultural science. Before starting Fall Creek Farm, he spent a year working as a legislative associate for Cornell Government Relations.

“The experience from my first job will be useful as a representative,” Russell said.

Russell wants to focus on infrastructure.

“Building roads, bridges, and internet capacity puts people to work while improving our communities. That’s something everybody can get behind,” he said.

The 68th Ohio House District is comprised of Knox County and the eastern part of Delaware County.

Updates from Russell can be found on his campaign website at

Reception, candidates, petitions at November meeting

The November 2015 monthly meeting of the Knox County Democratic Party will be held on Tuesday, November 24, at 7:00 p.m. An informal reception before the meeting, at 6:00 p.m., will celebrate Democrats who ran for both partisan and nonpartisan races in Knox County in 2015.

Democrats in Knox County are encouraged to attend the meeting to meet our guests and engage in important activities before the holiday:

  • John Russell, candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives for the 68th district, will be on hand to talk about his candidacy and collect final signatures on his declaration of candidacy.
  • Abby Welter, regional field organizer for the Ohio Democratic Party, will be present to talk about Democratic campaign activities leading up through the March primary.
  • Petitions for Ted Strickland for Senate and Cynthia Rice for Ohio Supreme Court will be circulated.
  • Results of the November 2015 election will be discussed.

All meetings are held at Knox County Democratic Party headquarters at 9 East Vine Street in Mount Vernon. Although only executive committee members may vote on party business, all Democrats in Knox County are welcome to attend the monthly meetings.

For more information, contact

Statement from KCDP chair on voter suppression

I play two roles in the Knox County community. As chairman of the Knox County Democratic Party, I work to involve all members of our community, not just a select few, in our democracy. And as a member of the Knox County Board of Elections, I have sworn an oath to protect voting rights. It is my duty to do everything in my power to ensure free and fair elections–and to make sure all voters can vote with as little difficulty as possible.

Access to the ballot box is a cornerstone of our democracy. Cynical interests too often attempt to erect artificial barriers to make it harder for some groups to vote. They make all kinds of claims to justify their voter suppression. They say they want to protect the system from fraud. Or they want to ensure uniformity across the state. Or, as in the most recent case of voter suppression in Ohio, they claim they want to raise revenue to pay for our state’s transportation system. All of these claims have been raised as justifications for laws that make it more difficult for Ohioans to vote.

The latter claim was made this week to justify a last-minute, ill-conceived amendment to HB 53, Ohio’s transportation budget bill. The Republican-led Senate inserted a measure that requires college students from out of state and studying in Ohio to pay to register their vehicles in Ohio and obtain an Ohio driver’s license if they register to vote in this state. This measure is an obvious attempt to keep these students from voting, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right of students to vote in the state in which they attend college.

Predictably, Republicans are claiming innocence, saying this is merely a common-sense measure and not the radical departure from long-standing law that it is. Secretary of State Jon Husted–the very man whose job it is to protect the right to vote–dismissed concerns about this bill as “hysteria.” Hysteria? No, Secretary Husted, those of us who are opposed to a last-minute, surprise attack on the voting rights of young Ohio adults are not peddling hysteria.

We in Ohio must welcome with open arms the young men and women who choose to move to our state for at least nine months out of the year. We must embrace the interest that thousands of these students show in our communities by registering to vote, volunteering in political campaigns, meeting candidates, and getting to know the issues. We must encourage students to become involved in civic affairs and to start a lifelong commitment to democracy.

We must not tell these students that they are less than full citizens, that their participation is not welcome in Ohio.

The Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly–and the Republican secretary of state–are continuing down a dangerous road by enacting this measure. If they do not undo this law themselves, then the courts of this state must weigh in and stop this voter suppression from taking effect. And all Ohioans must call their representatives and demand that these voter suppression measure stop once and for all.

R. Adam Gilson
Chairman, Knox County Democratic Party