It was a full house as the McCracken County Democratic Party hosted its 13th annual Alben Barkley dinner Thursday night, where four local residents were given awards for their contributions to the party.

Jesus Menendez, Neel Carroll, and the late Nat Dortch were presented with the Outstanding Democrat Award by former McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden. Dortch's wife and family accepted the award of his behalf.

"These three men have worked tirelessly over the years to elect good, honest, hard-working Democrats, and it's time they be recognized for their efforts," Hayden said of the three men.

Nate Crawford was presented with the Rising Young Democrat Award by Executive Committee member Jennifer Smith.

After awards were handed out, Jennifer Moore, Kentucky Emerge founder, introduced the event's six keynote speakers: six female candidates running for state office for the first time.

Linda Carroll, chair of the dinner committee, said most of the women are graduates of Emerge Kentucky, an organization whose mission is "to increase the number of Democratic women leaders from diverse backgrounds in public office through recruitment, training, and providing a powerful network."

The candidates are Julie Tennyson, state Senate, District 2; Martha Emmons, state representative, District 3; Linda Story Edwards, state representative, District 6; DesireƩ Owen, state representative, District 1; Charlotte Goddard, state representative, District 2; and Abigail Barnes, state representative, District 4.

Owen was the first to speak at the event, urging the crowd to "remember in November."

"I am not afraid to shake things up in Frankfort because I am not afraid," Owen said. "My only job is to put the voters first in the First District again. We are taking this commonwealth back from the west to east."

Goddard said her experience as an educator drove her to run.

"As an educator, it is my job to give students everything that I can to prepare them for what they will encounter in the world," Goddard said. "There have been a number of assaults on public education, and we cannot stand for that. These children are our future and economic development."

Emmons kept her message for the night short and sweet.

"Basically, it all comes down to how we treat people," she said. "We need to remember that we are the government. We have to act like we're the government and build what we want."

Edwards highlighted a "we" mentality.

"Our founding fathers knew we needed to use 'We the People,'" she said. "I will serve and stand for the people, all the people."

Tennyson stated that this will be the year of the woman.

"You might be a woman running for election if you're smart, you're capable and you know the issues," Tennyson said. "I appreciate you support, I need your help, and together we can take back western Kentucky."

Attorney General Andy Beshear, Secretary of State Alison Grimes and state Rep. Rocky Atkins also spoke.

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