MOREHEAD, Ky. – A gay man in eastern Kentucky has lost his bid to challenge Republican county clerk Kim Davis, who went to jail three years ago for denying him and others marriage licenses in the aftermath of an historic U.S. Supreme Court decision.
David Ermold sought the Democratic nomination in Tuesday’s primary in Rowan County, Kentucky. His quest to challenge the woman who said “God’s authority” prevented her from giving him a marriage license inspired thousands from at least 48 states to donate more than $200,000 to his campaign.
But it wasn’t enough to defeat Elwood Caudill Jr., a 20-year veteran of the Property Valuation Administrator’s office who works just across the hall from Davis. He ran a low-key campaign and has promised not to make gay marriage an issue in the general election.
“What happened in 2015 is in the past and just as my logo says, we’re just focused on the future,” Caudill said.
Ermould didn’t speak to news outlets Tuesday. He and his now-husband were one of several gay couples who tried to get licenses from Davis after the ruling. A video of the encounter was viewed more than 1.8 million times on YouTube.
Lawsuits followed; a judge ordered Davis to issue licenses. She refused and spent a week in jail. Upon her release, two Republican presidential candidates, hundreds of supporters and a church choir greeted her.
In 2016, Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature removed county clerks’ names from marriage licenses. Things had remained calm in Rowan County since then, until Davis announced in November she’d seek re-election. Ermold soon announced his candidacy.
But many in this college town, which includes Morehead State University, were wary of reviving the attention that would come with an Ermold-Davis matchup.
November will be the second time Caudill and Davis face each other in an election. In 2014, Davis defeated Caudill for the Democratic nomination by 23 votes. Davis has since changed her registration, saying the Democratic party abandoned her.
Some Republicans signalled Tuesday they wouldn’t vote for Davis in the fall. Jacqueline Smith, 72, said many in the community didn’t like the attention Davis garnered in 2015.
“I don’t think sexual orientation should have anything to do with it,” she said. “This is America.”
Davis, a Christian who attends an Apostolic church, has worked in the clerk’s office since 1988. She was hired by her mother, who was clerk for 37 years. She said she wasn’t surprised Ermold lost.
“I think the people truly spoke, and spoke loud,” she said.
Davis said she doesn’t know how the November campaign will shake out. She said she’s not a politician and doesn’t typically go door-to-door asking for votes.
“I’m real busy working. I work 50 hours a week — you don’t have a whole lot of time to do other things, but just about everybody in this county comes through this office, so I’ll see them at least once,” Davis said. “We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. “
Beam reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.
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