Lexington businessman Ben Self, a co-founder of West Sixth Brewery, on Saturday was elected the new chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, said party spokesman Brad Bowman.
Self replaces State Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, who announced she was stepping down in August.
“Mr. Self’s skill set will be vital to the party’s successes in 2018 and beyond. He decided to only to apply for the chair position once he knew he could commit the time needed and that he knew he could make a difference,” Bowman said. “It was unanimous amongst all committee members that Self’s leadership is what the party needs now and in the future.”
Self, 40, told the Herald-Leader that the Kentucky Democratic Party was at a “pivotal moment, and it’s an exciting moment. There’s a lot of opportunity ahead of us.”
Self is an “ entrepreneur and party activist who believes that with the current leadership in the governor’s mansion and legislature, the state is headed in a horrible direction,” a news release said.
Self made reference to Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan to change Kentucky’s public pension systems.
“In just one year, we’ve seen our governor and legislature destroy our workers’ ability to organize, decrease their wages, gut our education system and now they’re fighting a war against our teachers and state workers,” Self said. “Enough is enough. The great Kentucky Republican experiment is not only morally bankrupt, it is a total failure.”
Democrats last year lost the state House to Republicans for the first time since 1921 and Republican Donald Trump won 118 out of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
“We believe that everyone who works should be able to afford a roof above their head and food on the table,” Self said. “We believe that no Kentuckian should die for lack of access to health care. And we believe that access to a good education is a fundamental right.”
Self said Democrats have to win elections, build long-term party capacity, which includes recruiting candidates, training activists, sharing best practices and building long-term knowledge inside the party.
“It’s time to return the Kentucky Democratic Party to the people,” Self said. “While campaigns and candidates come and go, the only organization that can tie them together, and the grassroots energy and fundraising momentum they produce, is a strong Kentucky Democratic Party.
“Kentucky Democrats have done some amazing things for this state from the state park system in the 1950s, our community college system in the 1960s and the country-leading implementation of the Affordable Care Act here in Kentucky we called Kynect,” Self said. “There are many great men and women who have led this party. Today, I was honored to be selected to be one of them.”
Self said his family has roots in Pike County where he spent many holidays and summer weekends with his grandparents in the hollow of Chloe Creek and Elkhorn City. He started his political work creating an infrastructure of small donors during Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2003 presidential campaign, a news release said.
From the Dean campaign, Self said he co-founded Blue State Digital, which grew to a company with more than 100 people doing work out of 5 offices in over a dozen countries. It handled online communications for many political campaigns and organizations, including Ted Kennedy, and the presidential campaign of Barack Obama.
Self said he was technology director of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009. He said he was also co-founder of the Bread Box, in which he managed and organized the rapid development of a 100,000-plus square-foot, four-building development in the heart of downtown Lexington.