Fight Like Hell for Kentucky 2023

In the 2023 Kentucky gubernatorial election, SURJ National organized to support the re-election of Governor Andy Beshear in our Fight Like Hell for Kentucky campaign. SURJ has deep roots in Kentucky, and this electoral work added to the people power we built in 2022 in contributing to a statewide effort to beat Kentucky’s anti-abortion Amendment 2. We recognize that no one politician can fix the struggles of Kentuckians, but we are committed to building power in a variety of ways – including in meeting electoral political moments. In our campaigns with white voters, SURJ works to break the power that the far right wields over working white people by meeting them in their material struggles, while not avoiding “divisive” issues– like trans rights and abortion. Spoiler alert: we won, and we won big. 

Daniel Cameron, Beshear’s MAGA-aligned opponent, was Attorney General at the time of Breonna Taylor’s murder by Louisville police. He even called her killing “justified,” and he was instrumental in the coverup of her murder. Cameron is also a large part of the Republican Attorneys General Association, who sent out robocalls to rally people to come to January 6. And, he lied about it. His campaign messaging included supporting SB 150, the controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill that regulates pronoun usage, bathroom usage, and lifesaving healthcare for young people in Kentucky. More than anything, Cameron’s campaign centered around completely blocking access to reproductive justice in the state of Kentucky – the year after Kentuckians voted to protect abortion access. This elevated conversations around this election to a national stage, and this election became a projection of how talking about abortion fairs for far right politicians. This election is also proof that the divide-and-conquer strategy of the far right is not a water-tight strategy with working white people.

We talked to tens of thousands of white, working class Kentuckians, and we repeatedly had conversations with folks about how Andy Beshear has addressed people’s suffering. From the pandemic, to the floods of Eastern Kentucky, to the tornadoes of Western Kentucky, to accessibility to good jobs, people felt like Beshear’s platforms reached them in their material reality. Further, Beshear did not shy away from talking about issues like abortion, COVID-19, and trans rights. As both parties vie for white working class voters, it was further confirmed in this election that the answer is not to ignore the “difficult” topics, but instead to meet people in their real suffering, focus on what matters, and expose the far right’s tactics as nothing more than a divide-and-conquer distraction from their abandonment of working people.

We organized over 600 SURJ members on the ground in Kentucky and across the country reached just shy of half a million voters, had 71,000 conversations, and secured over 10,000 commitments to vote. We talked to voters in majority-white, working class counties who were either unlikely to vote or unlikely to vote for a Democrat. Compared to his first run in 2019, we expanded Beshear’s win in four counties, most notably Letcher – a highly rural, old coal mining community where we ran billboards and knocked doors. In 2019, Beshear lost Letcher County, but this year, in large part due to our efforts, he won by 5 points.

By winning this election and doing our part by bringing in white, working class voters, we expanded our movement. On a national stage, we showed that these folks are worthy of relational conversations. We showed that, when invited, white people will enthusiastically join us in fights for racial and economic justice. 

We showed that when we fight like hell for Kentucky, we win. 

Fight Like Hell for Kentucky 2023 Read More »

Image of five KPU members talking at the base of a bridge outside.

Group Organizes around Rental Housing Issues in Northeast Kentucky

The Appalachian People’s Union wants to bring people together around shared concerns. That’s the first step in creating change, says one of its organizers.

“When community organizers started knocking on doors in Boyd County, Kentucky, they were ready to listen to what people had to say about the biggest issues in their lives. What surprised the canvassers was how ready residents were to talk.

“It was just house after house after house of people talking to me for 20 or 30 minutes,” said Beth Howard of organizing efforts in the northeastern Kentucky county of 48,000 residents.

“It was just very clear from the beginning that they wanted to talk about what was going on in their lives.”

About two-thirds of residences in Boyd County are owner-occupied. But most of the people Howard and others talked to were renters. Since housing issues were at the top of their list of their concerns, the Appalachian People’s Union, the organization that grew out of the door-to-door canvassing, will start with working on those issues. The hope is to add more issues later.”….

By Liz Carey at the Daily Yonder

Group Organizes around Rental Housing Issues in Northeast Kentucky Read More »

Image of coal minders sitting in uniform while covered in coal ash.

Pine Mountain fracas shows rural Kentuckians must fight for each other, not against | Opinion by Beth Howard

“I am a proud working class Appalachian woman raised on a small tobacco farm in rural Eastern Kentucky. I come from a community where we had each other’s backs. If someone was sick, or if there was a death in the family, we made each other casseroles, or offered to watch each other’s kids to lighten the load. We took turns working in each other’s tobacco fields or vegetable gardens. We never knew a stranger and no one went hungry if we could help it. It’s these kinds of values that informs my work as the Director of Appalachian People’s Union at Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) — to bring our Appalachian communities together to fight for a better future where everyone, no matter our skin tone, our zip code, or if we have any money in our pocket — can live a decent life. Unfortunately, there are some in our state who don’t share these values and actively oppose them. I was upset to learn that last week, a gathering of The Appalachian Waymakers Collective, a democratically controlled, multiracial, multicultural locally based grantmaker supporting artists and art makers throughout Appalachia, was attacked by a group of white men and women who told them they were not welcome in Harlan County and wanted them to remove their items, items they deemed “non-Christian”, from a chapel where the land stewards had given them permission to be. Unfortunately, this act of intimidation of people who aren’t white or heterosexual has been increasingly visible across our state. A few months ago, members of the Klu Klux Klan left recruitment flyers in multiple rural Kentucky towns. The Kentucky state legislature has passed some of the harshest anti-LGBTQ legislation in the country. These three events are attempts to intimidate people of color, LGBTQ people, and people of conscience. They are sowing divisions around race and gender, so a small few can feel powerful and get richer while the rest of us shrink, hide, or try to leave. But I know these hateful people are the minority in this beautiful state.”

Read the full opinion by Beth Howard in the Kentucky Herald Leader here.

Pine Mountain fracas shows rural Kentuckians must fight for each other, not against | Opinion by Beth Howard Read More »

Image of protesters in front of the Kentucky Annex with a blue sky behind them.

A new group will represent progressive Kentuckians from every corner of the state | Opinion


“We are Kentuckians who believe that everyone in our Commonwealth should be treated with dignity and respect. We reject oppressive policies like Senate Bill 150. TOP VIDEOS Progressive Kentuckians have long been on defense, especially as harmful bills like SB 150 moved through the legislature. That’s why building a unified progressive movement, across causes and across the state, is so important to the Bluegrass State. It is time for us to move from defense to offense, to build an agenda and streamline our goals.

For this to happen, however, we need to build our collective power and synthesize our stories, dreams, and skills. To do this, the Kentucky Movement Assembly (KMA) was born. Supporters from across organizations in our Commonwealth have joined together to bring the Kentucky Movement Assembly to northern Kentucky from Sept. 15-17.”

A new group will represent progressive Kentuckians from every corner of the state | Opinion Read More »

Old Time Screamin’ and a Shoutin’ w/Alex Flood

“There are 68 days until Nov. 7th – This week Kimberly and Doug weigh in on a fairly frightening confrontation in Eastern Kentucky as well as updates on Kentucky cannabis news. Then we chat with Alex Flood with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in the Campaign Corner to hear what SURJ is all about, and why they’re prioritizing sending Andy Beshear back to the Governor’s mansion on Nov. 7th. Finally, we close with a call to ACT NOW and KEEP ACTING until NOVEMBER 7TH!”

Old Time Screamin’ and a Shoutin’ w/Alex Flood Read More »

Images of protesters holding pink abortion rights signs in the Rotunda of the Kentucky capitol

Beth Howard on How abortion is set to shape the Kentucky governor’s race

“Beth Howard is the Appalachian People’s Union Director of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), which focuses on engaging White and working-class voters around racial and economic justice issues. Howard said SURJ ran the largest field program opposing Amendment 2 in 2022 and successfully persuaded voters to cross party lines.

“I believe that in our work to turn out voters and engage them in this election and in all the conversations we’re going to have with Kentuckians, this is a really important point that we engage people around,” Howard said. “For us, I believe it has the opportunity to rally people out to vote for Andy Beshear.”

Reported by Grace Panetta with The 19th*

Beth Howard on How abortion is set to shape the Kentucky governor’s race Read More »

Image of a group of people listening to a speaker on bright green grass in Louisville KY

JCPS board decides on SB 150 policy, but does it run afoul of the anti-trans law?

“This is a victory for all who believe that our most vulnerable students matter,” Z! Haukeness of Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice said in a press release. “We will keep fighting until our schools are safe from SB150, and safe from weapons detection systems and police in schools. These issues are connected and we refuse to let them come for any of us without coming through all of us.”

That resolution, though, angered at least one Kentucky lawmaker who accosted Pollio during a state education committee in Frankfort last week.

This is part of a broader campaign of Louisville SURJ and SURJ National to block the impact of the Kentucky State Legislature’s harmful anti-trans education bill, SB 150.

JCPS board decides on SB 150 policy, but does it run afoul of the anti-trans law? Read More »

Image of a person with curly dark blue-black hair and a pink shirt holding a "trans rights yall" sign with her arm around her child in a brick-walled room with supporters behind her.

Kentucky’s largest school district is deciding whether to defy new anti-trans law

“A JCPS policy committee crafted two options in response to new state restrictions on trans student rights: one proposal upholds, the other defies.

“As the new school year approaches, the Jefferson County Board of Education is deciding how it will respond to a directive from state lawmakers to impose new restrictions on transgender students…

Rising fourth grader Justice Chenault, who uses they/them pronouns, said they hope the board decides on the version that defies the state law.

“I sometimes worry that they’re gonna say ‘we will comply with it,’ and that is just going to make me feel not as safe at school,” they said.

Justice’s mom Anice Chenault said she understood that defying state law comes with legal risk.

“But I say ‘take that risk,’” Chenault said. “Our trans kids take a risk every day when they walk out the front door and walk into schools.”

Chenault is a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice’s Leadership Team.

article by Jess Clark, Louisville Public Media

Kentucky’s largest school district is deciding whether to defy new anti-trans law Read More »

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