[SFX: Woods ambience]
TOBIN: We’re gonna kick off the episode in the woods of Kentucky. More specifically, at a lake.
DAVID MOORE: So here’s Caverun Lake.
DAVID MOORE: This is the dam.
TOBIN: This is David Moore. He’s showing me around Rowan County where he’s lived for over a decade. This part of Kentucky is pretty rural, so it’s possible sometimes to feel like you’re all alone out here.
DAVID: It’s pretty huge, I’m just showing you this part, but it goes on. And on and on. [LAUGHS] Some people fish here, and some people swim here. This is not really the swimming area. We actually have a beach area where they put the sand in and everything...
TOBIN: This is one of his favorite places.
DAVID MOORE: Yeah, I mean. This is Kentucky...to me, you know?
[SFX: Driving sounds]
DAVID MOORE: This is Main Street. There’s one street. [LAUGHS]
TOBIN: About a 20 minute drive from the lake is Downtown Morehead, the heart of Rowan County.
DAVID MOORE: Yeah, we passed the coffee shop too. A lot of, a lot of liberal people hang out there because they feel comfortable there, I feel like...
TOBIN: And toward the end of Main Street is a place that holds a painful memory. It’s the Rowan County courthouse.
DAVID MOORE: The first time I went in after that had all happened. It was like this weight. It was so heavy. And I just felt crushed when I went in, which I guess is just anxiety or whatever, I don’t know. But it was...I couldn’t even control the way I felt.
TOBIN: But it’s not really the building itself that gives him anxiety. It’s someone who works there.
NEWSCASTER 1: Do you remember Kim Davis?
NEWSCASTER 2: Kim Davis.
NEWSCASTER 3: Kim Davis.
NEWSCASTER 4: Kim Davis. The Kentucky Clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses...
NEWSCASTER 5: ...to same sex couples.
NEWSCASTER 6: She believes that her religious right supersedes the Supreme Court.
TOBIN: In 2015, she became this national fascination. She was everywhere.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: If you are an elected official, you have to do what the government tells you to do.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: But as long as she’s working for the federal government of the United States of America, she is also bound to that job.
KATHY: Yeah, I can remember what she looks like down to how she wore her hair. I remember it being like straight down with a little poof of hair above her forehead.
TOBIN: Yeah, and I mean, some people thought of her as this cartoonish villain, some people saw her as a folk hero. The whole thing snowballed.
PROTESTERS: Obey the law! Obey the law!
TOBIN: Mike Huckabee showed up.
MIKE HUCKABEE: The tyranny of people who believe they can take our freedom and conscience away...
TOBIN: She got to meet the pope.
KIM DAVIS: He said, “Thank you for your courage.”
TOBIN: And in the end, she basically got her way. The Governor of Kentucky said county clerks didn’t have to sign marriage licenses to make them legal. Kim kept her job, a job that had actually been in her family for years…
MICHELLE COLLINS: Her mother was the county clerk for 37 years.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: And she’s been for 24, yes.
MICHELLE COLLINS: And her son is a deputy. And my question is: are there no other people to elect in Rowan County?
TOBIN: Great question, underappreciated The View host, Michelle Collins. Because yes, there are other people to elect. Like this man.
DAVID: This is our memory of our marriage for the rest of our life.
TOBIN: This is David Ermold. He’s an English professor who is taking on Kim Davis in this year’s election for county clerk. He’s also the husband of David Moore, who you heard giving me the tour. In 2015, the couple had gone to the courthouse three times for a marriage license, and each time they were denied.
DAVID: What she has done is unconscionable. It’s unforgivable. It’s absolutely, absolutely ludicrous.
TOBIN: And from the moment he announced he was running, people lost their damn minds.
CHRIS HAYES: When Kim Davis decided to run for reelection for Rowan County clerk in Kentucky, she probably did not expect her opponent to be a man she denied a marriage license to two years ago to wed his partner and now his husband, and that’s David Ermold.
TOBIN: It felt like something out of a movie. Especially when, as county clerk, Kim registered David for the race. They shook hands and everything.
KIM DAVIS: Here’s your receipt. May the best candidate win.
DAVID: Thank you ma’am. Appreciate it.
KIM DAVIS: Thank you. Y’all have a wonderful day.
TOBIN: Ellen Degeneres tweeted about David’s campaign, saying, “In case you like to vote for awesome people.”
KATHY: Ellen freaking Degeneres.
TOBIN: Ellen freaking Degeneres, right? And when Ellen calls, I answer. So in February, I flew down to Kentucky as David got his campaign up and running. I wanted to see what it was like to run as an openly gay politician in a conservative part of America. But also, what it’s like to go up to the woman who denied you your rights and challenge her to a rematch.
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios, you’re listening to Nancy.
VOX 2: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
KATHY: Can I just ask before we go any further...what does a county clerk do?
TOBIN: You know what, I didn’t know this either before I started working on this story. So it varies a little from place to place, but county clerks are generally in charge of a lot of public records. So like, birth certificates, death certificates. They also run local elections, so it’s a lot of organizational stuff.
KATHY: So what I’m hearing is, I would kill it at this job.
TOBIN: You would be very good at this job.
KATHY: This job has Kathy Tu written all over it. So I could run for county clerk somewhere in New York?
TOBIN: I don’t know, Kathy. Back to David.
DAVID: How are you?
TOBIN: Hey! How’s it going?
DAVID: Pretty good.
TOBIN: Nice to meet you in person.
DAVID: No, it’s nice to meet you! Was it hard to find your way?
TOBIN: So the first time I get to meet David face-to-face is at the opening night party for his campaign offices. He’s just come from his day job at the University of Pikeville and he looks the part: button-down shirt tucked into khakis, glasses. His campaign offices are in a one-story house on the main street of town. David’s standing out front shaking hands, and as he’s giving me a lay of the land, he mentions the courthouse down the road.
DAVID: You cannot avoid it. It’s a really nice facility. That’s where I’m working in about 8 months. That’s gonna be my job in 8 months, right?
DEREK: It is.
TOBIN: That little affirmative just came from Derrick Collett. He’s David’s campaign manager. Derek is one of the early signs that this campaign is legit.
DEREK: I have been working as a paid person in politics since 2014...
TOBIN: He’s worked on senate campaigns, he worked for Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign in Kentucky.
DEREK: ...was the field director for a special election here for a guy named Bill Noelker and then I went back and worked for Hillary again during the primary here in Kentucky…
TOBIN: I don’t mean this in any kind of way but you have a lot of experience, what drew you to the county clerk election in Rowan County?
TOBIN: Sidenote: it’s actually pronounced Rowan. Classic out of town reporter mistake.
TOBIN: Which, I mean, to the outside world is kind of a smaller election.
DEREK: It is, but, you know, as you can tell from my voice I’m an Eastern Kentucky native myself, and it’s important to me that my people be portrayed accurately. And I do feel that we’re no different than anybody else, and no other group of people here. We have good people, we have bad people, we have smart people, and unfortunately we have a few stupid people.
TOBIN: Inside, there’s a real party going on…big trays of barbeque, a live band. There are pins and t-shirts with David’s name on them. And the true mark of anything being official: there are interns.
KAYLA: I’m Kayla Bowen, I’m an intern with the David Ermold for County Clerk campaign.
AYDEN: I’m Ayden Paulsen, I’m an intern with the David Ermold campaign.
TOBIN: Where are you guys originally from?
KAYLA: I’m from Hazard, Kentucky.
TOBIN: Is it literally spelled H-A-Z-A-R-D?
KAYLA: Yes, like the hazard. It is a hazardous place. It’s terrible. Don’t go there.
AYDEN: The second I heard that he was running I knew that it was going to be a great thing. And it’s important for rural America to have that representation.
KAYLA: Gay people are everywhere!
AYDEN: Yeah, yeah.
KAYLA: They’re everywhere!
TOBIN: In fact, it kinda feels like every out queer person in the county is here and excited. Like 22-year-old student, Quincy Swain.
QUINCY: I have faith in him and I believe in him.
TOBIN: Do you think he’s gonna win?
QUINCY: Yes, most definitely. I will see to it, I will do everything in my power.
TOBIN: Eventually, I find my way back to Derek, the campaign manager, and he’s in a good mood.
DEREK: Yeah, I’m not bad, you know?
TOBIN: Not bad?
DEREK: I’m not bad for being from a holler that’s so deep and dark they have to push sunshine in by the day and moonshine out by the night, so...
TOBIN: Derek tells me that Rowan County’s registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about two to one. David’s running as a Democrat, so you’d think that works in his favor. But a Democrat in Kentucky is not necessarily like a Democrat in other parts of the country.
DEREK: We have about 9,000 approximately registered Democrats and about 4,500 registered Republicans. Now you have to take into account that much like the Reagan Democrat phenomenon across Illinois and Ohio and Michigan during the 80s, that we kind of have a Trump Democrat phenomenon going on in Eastern Kentucky because of the way he talked about coal and some other things.
TOBIN: And when I get David away from the party for a moment, I start to see that he's not quite as confident as he was inside.
DAVID: So I know that Kim Davis will be able to peel some Democrats off. It’s not as easy as a lot of people think. They think, “Well yeah, you’re standing up for the right thing…”
TOBIN: Just then, someone drives by and yells out the window at David.
PERSON: Kim Davis for life!
DAVID: There we go, right? Proof right there, you know. We have minds to change. We have people to change.
TOBIN: I missed what he just yelled.
DAVID: He said, “Kim Davis for life.” Yeah.
DAVID: I was born in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, which is a suburb of Philadelphia.
TOBIN: What was coming out like for you?
DAVID: That was really awkward, I think. You know, all the way through high school was kind of a difficult time. I spent a lot of my time in my bedroom away from people, you know, just kind of avoided any kind of discussion over things like that.
TOBIN: But eventually he did come out.
DAVID: At that time, you know, computers were not that prevalent in people’s homes. I didn’t have one. David didn’t have one. You know, and we used to drive back and forth to the library. It really was a pen pal relationship for almost a year.
TOBIN: David eventually moved to Morehead to go to graduate school at Morehead State University, and to be with his new boyfriend.
DAVID MOORE: I mean even when me and Dave first got together, we were pretty private about everything.
TOBIN: I’m in the car again with David Moore. I know, it’s probably confusing you that they’re both named David, so I’ll make sure to refer to this one as David Moore.
TOBIN: Do you feel like you’ve been able to find like a LGBT community, like a sense of community?
DAVID MOORE: It’s still fractured and doesn’t feel, you know, like if we go to Lexington and we go to the bar there, you see people that know each other, they’ve known each other for years. They feel comfortable. They’re supportive. You know, like if one of the drag queens dies, they have a big benefit and everybody knows that person because they’ve done so much in the community. Whereas here, you don’t have that. And I think part of that is because we don’t have bars here. We don’t have those places where you form your identity, you know? A lot of people do form their identity in gay bars or LGBT centers. We don’t have a LGBT center. We don’t have, you know, so the community is here but it’s just kind of threaded and fractured a bit.
TOBIN: Talking to him about being gay in this town, how most people are kind of quiet about their sexuality, I think back to that Youtube video of Kim denying him and his husband a marriage license.
DAVID: Is this what you wanna remember?!
TOBIN: And how both of them are crying and yelling, and being very loud.
DAVID: Children have to look at you and realize that you’re bigots!
TOBIN: I mean it does strike me, like, meeting you...you seem like a sort of mild mannered kinda guy. In that video you are like, fighting. I mean, what was going on for you in that moment?
DAVID MOORE: It just reminded me of all those encounters I’ve had in my life. And all that build up over time, just having to accommodate other people and make them feel comfortable and make them feel like, “Oh well, it’s okay. I’ll just be over here in the corner and I’ll be, you know, your good little gay or whatever. And I won’t bother you and you can go on and have your life and do whatever.” I was just done with that. I was completely done.
DAVID MOORE: So...Oh, this is where we got married by the way.
TOBIN: Oh yeah?
DAVID MOORE: Yeah.
TOBIN: He’s pointing to a bell tower on the Morehead State campus. It’s a four sided stone structure with large arches and words written on each side.
DAVID MOORE: It says justice, wisdom, love, and I think the other one is service on the other side. Yup.
TOBIN: What was your wedding like?
DAVID MOORE: Oh it was great. It was great. I’m gonna get emotional again. It was...It’s like, I never thought it would become legal in Kentucky, first of all, to be able to get married. I thought this would take the longest, basically. But we had been together so long, I was like, “As soon as it’s legal here, we’re gonna go get married. That’s what we should do. That’s what we have to do because we’ve been together so long.” Yeah, and then our reception was like a costume party, Halloween reception. Yeah, it was fun.
TOBIN: Were you dressed up as something?
DAVID MOORE: Oh yeah, we were...so Dave was the Big Bad Wolf that had eaten Grandma. And I was like Riding Hood. LIke a male version of Little Red Riding Hood.
TOBIN: The two Davids are huge fans of horror movies. Hence the Halloween themed reception.
TOBIN: I can’t do horror movies.
DAVID MOORE: No? Why not? Why not?
TOBIN: I don’t know, they just stress me out.
DAVID MOORE: I know, but I guess I like to feel that way a little bit.
TOBIN: So you’re good at handling stress?
DAVID MOORE: I think stress is a good motivator. You know, it really is. Anxiety. Stress. Yeah.
TOBIN: I’m just thinking about how stressful it must have been, the whole Kim Davis 2015 situation.
DAVID MOORE: Yeah, it was. It was stressful. And then the reaction to that was stressful, obviously. And then the media on top of that adds another layer. And then people expecting you to represent something else, something bigger. Some people have expectations of you.
TOBIN: What did you feel like people wanted you to represent?
DAVID MOORE: I think a lot of people saw themselves in that story or in that encounter. So for us, it’s kind of like we represented those people who felt oppressed in a lot of ways.
TOBIN: Even after years of all this attention, the Davids still seem like they don't know what to make of it all. Before they tried to get married, they flew under the radar, and they liked it that way. But the act of asking to be recognized and respected turned them into symbols of a national movement. And it's brought cameras and crowds and reporters. And that's made a lot of local people really frustrated. At David.
DAVID: I know why Obama has grey hair. I know why they all have grey hair by the end of their presidencies because I don’t know how they could do it, you know, for that long. And we’re just doing a local race.
TOBIN: Sitting in his election office, surrounded by campaign signs with his name on them, David has stress coming out of his pores. By entering the race, he’s inviting all this attention, both good and bad. But David argues that by voting for him, people could restore the image of Rowan County to the rest of the country.
DAVID: I’m hoping that the people of our county are seeing, will see what I'm trying to do. I’m trying to give them the opportunity to redefine who they are.
TOBIN: He also argues that despite having no previous experience in government, he can do this job.
DAVID: A lot of the people that have held that office or held similar offices, they have had a high school degree and they were able to perform those functions. You know, I mean, I have two masters degrees.
TOBIN: But above all else, winning this election would feel like an opportunity for David to redefine himself.
DAVID: So it’s always about what does somebody else think about me, you know, and how much of ourselves do we repress and do we hold back just for the sake of others to feel comfortable. And I’m tired. You know, I’m getting older and I’m tired of having to sacrifice those things in my life and I don’t want to do that anymore.
TOBIN: That must be a lot of pressure, also.
DAVID: Yeah, I think about it all the time, keeps me up at night. To be honest with you, I get maybe two to three hours worth of sleep because I wake up thinking about something, sometimes dreaming about it. I had a dream last week that Kim Davis was showing me around the office and how to do things, no kidding, you know? So it just kind of pervades your mind.
TOBIN: David is betting the people of Rowan County will see this election as an opportunity to take back the story they've seen all over the national news and say, “No, Kim Davis doesn't represent this community. She's not us.” But, for David, it will answer another question, too.
DAVID: If I win this race, I fit into this community. So it’s like I’m saying if I put myself out there and I’m being judged, you know, by others, which I kinda am. I mean, that’s what she said I was gonna have to face that day. She said I’m gonna have to face my judgement. Well, I’m gonna face my judgement, and that’s what I’m doing, you know. And I can finally feel like I fit into this community fully and I’m accepted here.
TOBIN: You talk about the symbolism of winning for you. Do you feel that there would be symbolism if you lost?
DAVID: Well, I think that’s what worries me a lot, you know. I think it’s still closes the book. It says, you know, well, Rowan County isn’t quite ready to move in that direction and maybe...maybe there’s more work to be done.
TOBIN: It helps that support has been flowing in from all over the country. But even that support comes with a certain weight.
DAVID: You know we get a lot of...we get donations from people who are on disability. You know, they’re cleaning out their accounts, the little bit that they have, they’re sending that in. And that is what puts the pressure on me. Because they believe in what we’re doing. They have faith in what we’re doing. And I just, I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to let them. You know, and I’m not going to. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not gonna do it. It’s gonna be okay.
TOBIN: Coming up, a word from Kim Davis.
KATHY: Nancy will be back in a minute.
TOBIN: Would you ever run for office?
KATHY: I would never run for office.
KATHY: No. The one time I worked on a campaign, I was in charge of emails and I basically spammed everybody because they wouldn’t let me have an unsubscribe link which I think every email should have.
TOBIN: And that pissed you off?
KATHY: Yeah, even like personal emails should have unsubscribe links sometimes. [LAUGHS]
TOBIN: I see. I see.
KATHY: So, back to the story, I have a serious question for you. Did you, or did you not, interview Kim Davis?
TOBIN: Okay, waiting outside the Rowan County courthouse in my car.
TOBIN: I put in multiple requests for an interview. Her lawyers declined.
TOBIN: It is 7:15, the office opens in 45 minutes.
TOBIN: So one morning, I went to see if I could get a statement from her.
TOBIN: So we’ll see if I can’t run into Ms. Davis.
TOBIN: My name’s Tobin, I’m the reporter in from New York.
KIM DAVIS: Ahh.
TOBIN: She didn’t want to talk. She basically said David had a right to run if he wanted to...told me to take care and be careful out there. Later on, I sent her a list of questions. No response. And this was no big surprise. Kim doesn’t really talk to the press. One of the few times she did was a big primetime interview with ABC News in 2015.
KIM DAVIS: I have friends who are gay and lesbians. They know where I stand. And we don’t agree on this issue. And we’re okay because we respect each other.
REPORTER: So you would deny your friends who are in gay relationships? You would deny them a marriage license as well?
KIM DAVIS: I did. I can’t put my name on a license that doesn’t represent what God ordained marriage to be.
KATHY: Wait. Did I hear her correctly? Did she just pull the “I have a gay friend” card?
TOBIN: She did. But the thing is, she does have at least one gay friend.
DALLAS: Pretty much my whole entire life, she’s been around in some form or fashion. She was married to one of my relatives...one of her ex-husbands.
TOBIN: This is Dallas Black. And in 2015, he made headlines as Kim’s gay friend who was angry with her. At least part of that is true. Dallas is a friend of Kim’s.
DALLAS: And she’s always been very nice to me. She’s not generally a mean person, or she wasn’t then.
TOBIN: So when everything started to happen in 2015 and she was sort of doubling down on her position, was that surprising to you?
DALLAS: Yes, I was shocked. You know, she knew that I was homosexual. She never seemed to have a problem with it. I didn’t really expect it. I voted for her.
TOBIN: But the more attention she got, the more she grew into someone Dallas didn’t recognize.
DALLAS: I mean a lot of other people agreed with her, you know, people who follow her and support her. That’s kind of weird to say, “follow her.” But I think I was more afraid that she would get it in her head that she was some sort of religious figure.
TOBIN: I mean you could argue that she did get fully there in terms of believing that she was like the symbol of something.
DALLAS: Yeah, I can see where that happened with her. In the end, though, I think she’s still a very nice person but I do believe she allowed herself to get swept up. She was sensationalized. The whole entire event was.
TOBIN: I mean, did you ever have a moment with her where you were just like, “What are you doing?”
DALLAS: Yes. The first day. I was there early in the morning to protest. And I took about 10 minutes to go in there and speak to Kim personally to let her know that I was protesting her decision and that I did not agree with them. It was a polite conversation. We just looked at each other. She told me she still was my friend and she said she still loved me. And I go, “I love you, I just don’t agree with you and I think what you’re doing is wrong and a little misguided.”
TOBIN: Were there moments when you were angry with her?
DALLAS: No, I wasn’t angry. It’s like, um, you have friends, obviously. Most people have friends. And your friend does something that you totally do not expect, something that personally affects you. Hurts your feelings. You might get anger, but most of the time you're just disappointed that they did it. There’s no such thing as a very good person and a very bad person. You have a spectrum. I mean I have my bad qualities as well, not gonna talk about those.
TOBIN: I mean, sure, you have your bad qualities, but you weren’t on ABC News espousing why people shouldn’t be able to get married or why you believe that's wrong. She was out there being very vocal about something that could negatively affect you.
DALLAS: Well, I listened to her speak, you know, whenever she was out there speaking. And I believe that a lot of...you know, she was kind of pushed that way, kind of like an instrument. Like, she got swept up. She got the attention from the media. She got people who were sitting there telling her, “You’re doing God’s work.” I mean, that kind of stuff can get to your head a little bit. You know, fame. Um, she...I mean, she’s still Kim to me.
TOBIN: Dallas’ sadness about how his friend had changed, that really stuck out to me because I felt that from a lot of of the people I talked to. Like, what happened at the courthouse changed everything. People in the community had to pick sides. The national attention disrupted their daily lives. And even though all the cameras left, it couldn't go back to being this quiet town anymore. Rowan County was infamous.
DOC: It started bringing in the loonies, it became pretty frightening and it became more aggressive.
TOBIN: This is Walter Doc Blevins, longtime Democrat. He’s an executive judge in Rowan County, which means he remembers the crowds, the protests, the feeling that it was getting out of control.
TOBIN: I mean, do you sense at all then a hesitancy to revisit that potentially with a run?
DOC: I think all of us are concerned that it could turn into that again.
TOBIN: But Doc says that’s actually not the main reason people might not vote for David. He says it’s a bigger deal that for people who have lived here their entire lives, you know, grew up here, have multiple generations of family here. To them, David is an outsider.
DOC: I think it matters that people know you, ‘cause people tend to vote in an election like this where people kind of grew up with the individuals. I think it’d be easier for those people to get those people to vote.
TOBIN: And right now, David isn’t actually running against Kim Davis. He’s running to run against her. It’s the primary. And David is up against three other Democrats. One of them is Elwood Caudill, Jr. He narrowly lost to Kim in the last election, so he’s got a real shot. He also has experience in local government. And maybe even more importantly...
DOC: Raised in Rowan County, grew up in Rowan County, went to school in Rowan County, been active in the Democrat party in Rowan County. I think it’ll be tough for him to kind of overcome that.
TOBIN: Which is why it’s so important that David meet the voters.
KAYLA: Like, most of the people I’ve called, they’re just like, they just don’t know who David is. So they don’t know who they’re gonna vote for.
This is Kayla the intern again. We’re back at the campaign offices talking about phone banking. Aiden, the other intern, says he’s not having much better luck. He getting a lot of disconnected phone numbers, the occasional confused, old woman...
AYDEN: She’s like, “Honey, I can’t hear you. Speak up! You’re breaking up.” And I was like, “I’m sorry, Wilma.” [LAUGHS]
TOBIN: Name recognition, still a problem. Which is why it’s good that today David’s plan is to knock on doors, meet voters face-to-face. Not so good, it’s pouring rain.
DAVID: There’s a better day for this than today, to be honest with you. It’s a little ridiculous.
TOBIN: David is visibly tired and stressed. As the team starts to huddle up for canvas training, campaign manager Derek is ready with handouts for everyone. But before he can begin, David wants to address the group. It’s about their social media presence. They’ve recently been getting comments online, anonymous posters that say he’s just in the election for publicity, that this whole thing is a stunt. And it’s clearly wearing on David.
DAVID: You know, they can talk about publicity. They can say that that is a negative thing. And that’s what they’re posting on. I know. We read it. That’s what they’re doing. But you know what? We have a message that we’re gonna send out there. That’s what this campaign is about. It is about that message. That is what it’s about. And if they don’t like us because we’re going to work with the media when it comes in, then that’s their problem. That’s not ours. I want us to do our jobs. That’s what I want. That’s what’s important. Win or lose, we’re gonna send the best message we can. And that’s fine [VOICE BREAKS]. That’s fine. Right? So don’t let those people let you down. Don’t. It’s hard enough with what we have to deal with, with people driving across the street saying “Kim Davis forever,” and calling us whatever names they call us, right? But it’s okay. It’s okay because we’re gonna be above it. And win or lose, we’re gonna be above it. Because that’s what we have to do. I’m sorry you’re getting a school lecture from me today. This is what I do to my students, you know, all the time. But it’s the truth. But anyway, okay, I’m sorry…
DEREK: Come on. I need…
TOBIN: Derek ushers him into another room to talk privately. After a couple minutes, they return ready to hit the campaign trail.
TOBIN: There’s a break in the rain, and it’s time to canvass. I let the Davids drive my rental car so I can sit in the back and record.
DAVID MOORE: How do I know? What do I do here? Is it started yet?
TOBIN: Hit start one more time.
TOBIN: And, eventually…
TOBIN: There you go.
DAVID MOORE: Ohh. Okay, now it’s working.
TOBIN: ...we get going to knock on doors. The strategy for this morning is to talk to people who have expressed interest in David’s campaign, voters who may be likely to vote for him in the primaries.
DAVID: Well, listen, what concerns do you have about the office down there. Like if there are things that you can change, that you think we can improve.
TOBIN: This is David talking to a voter who doesn’t want us to use his name.
VOTER 1: Um, I mean, my interaction with it is to get my license renewed and that’s pretty much it. I had to get my house redone one time, and it was fairly efficient. So I don’t really have any like operational complaints...
TOBIN: He says his experience with the county clerk has been fine. No complaints. David asks, well, what if we did text message alerts, like what if you got your notice to renew your driver's license on your phone?
VOTER 1: Um, to me, that wouldn’t be an important thing.
DAVID: Do you think maybe it’d be to younger people?
VOTER 1: Possibly, I mean, my phone is just enough to do texting and calling. I don’t really have a smartphone so that’s not...that’s not a thing for me.
TOBIN: The conversation doesn’t go much further. I mean, it’s kinda hard to get excited about getting your license renewed. But he gives the guy a yard sign and we move on.
DAVID: So I’m here to ask you if you’ll vote for me!
VOTER 2: Yes, yes of course.
DAVID: But also, you know, kind of to meet people.
TOBIN: They talk a little bit about the campaign before David asks him how he’s been doing.
VOTER 2: I actually lost my job. because yeah...
TOBIN: He trails off when David asks him why.
DAVID: Well, what do you think, I mean, you think you’re gonna be able to find something?
VOTER 2: Um, I don’t know. We’ll see.
DAVID: Yeah. You will.
VOTER 2: I’m not desperate yet. [LAUGHS]
DAVID: Well, I hope things get better. Alright, well I’ll let you be. Thank you. Hey, give me a hug. I appreciate it.
TOBIN: Back in the car, I can see that David’s bummed out.
DAVID: Well, that’s frustrating.
DAVID MOORE: Yup. Have a lot of that, where people tell you that their life sucks right now, you know?
DAVID: Yeah, and how do you respond to that when you’re just, you know, running for county clerk and you can’t really do anything? All you can do I guess is make that a little easier.
TOBIN: David’s running on big themes like how the county defines itself, equality, fairness. But the job doesn’t really make policy, at least it’s not supposed to.
TOBIN: I came to Rowan County because the stakes seemed so high. David Ermold, Kim Davis...they embody this national conflict. And if David could beat Kim, it would be like a sign that all the bullies of the world were on notice. But winning this election is going to be hard for David. I found out Derek left the campaign in March over strategic differences. And I’ve seen how people's’ expectations keep David up at night. I feel like I’m watching someone headed toward another heartbreak.
MODERATOR: Let’s go to our questions now from our panel of reporters…
TOBIN: Just last week, there was a political forum in Rowan County with the Democratic candidates.
REPORTER: How should the county and the community respond to the possible influx of media during the election?
TOBIN: Elwood Caudill, Jr., the local guy who has a good shot at the nomination, answered first.
ELWOOD: You know, I really think what the media did last time, and what was brought to Rowan County, I wish I had never witnessed…
TOBIN: And he goes in hard on how much 2015 messed up everyone’s lives. He promises that if he gets the nomination, the national press won’t be welcome. Not on his watch.
ELWOOD: And if they’re all out there listening. I will do an interview with you, but don’t come back, ‘cause I don’t want you back.
TOBIN: If I were a voter in Rowan County, I imagine how I might hear this. If we vote for David Ermold, he’ll bring that ugly spotlight back to our community.
MODERATOR: And Mr. Ermold.
DAVID: I think...I think unfortunately what happened in 2015...
TOBIN: David starts by acknowledging that yes, people outside the community will be interested in this election. But then he directly addresses the people in the audience: his neighbors, the people who could actually elect him.
DAVID: There’s a reason why I decided to stay even after everything that had happened and why I’m standing on this stage tonight. It’s because I’m willing to stand here for what I believe in and I’m willing to stand here for this community. Because I believe, and I have faith in you, in doing the right thing. And what I suggest to you is, I’ve been here long enough to know that you are my friends, you are my neighbors. And I support you, and I know basically that you support us as well. As far as the media, we’re gonna take care of that. We’re gonna send a positive message out there and they are gonna understand that Rowan County is one of the greatest places to live in Kentucky.
TOBIN: One last thing...
DAVID: Hi, is this Tobin?
TOBIN: Hey David.
DAVID: Hi, how are you?
TOBIN: A couple days ago, I called David to check in on him, and he’s sounding optimistic. He’s getting more sleep. And even though he lost his campaign manager, he now has a team of 11. And when I ask him about how he’s polling…
DAVID: Well, you know, you’re asking me to give some information out to the other candidates out there. If they listen, I don’t know if I really want to do that. But I will absolutely say it’s looking good. It looks good.
TOBIN: So, election day is May 22nd. Have you written any speeches one way or the other?
DAVID: Oh I got you, I got you. So you want to know if I’m gonna write a victory speech or a concession speech. [LAUGHS] I’ve been thinking about it. May 22nd is Harvey Milk Day, and I’m hoping to be able to write a speech, you know, or deliver something that really talks about being able to continue what he was trying to do at the local level out in California. You know, rural politics, local politics, matters. And if we can get ourselves in there and represent, you know, all the people in an equal way, I think that’s a good thing.
KATHY: Alright, it’s credits time!
TOBIN: Special thanks this week to Daniel Desrochers, Chuck Mraz, Leeann Akers, and Richard Fletcher.
TOBIN: Matt Collette!
KATHY: Sound designer…
TOBIN: Jeremy Bloom!
TOBIN: Jenny Lawton!
KATHY: Executive Producer…
TOBIN: Paula Szuchman!
KATHY: I’m Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: I’m Tobin Low.
KATHY: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
[CREDITS MUSIC ENDS]
TOBIN: Producer...Matt Collette. Sound designer...Jeremy Bloom. Editor...blah blah blah. Executive Producer...blah blah blah. I’m host. I’m the other host. ANd Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.