KDP names Mary Nishimuta new executive director

04/21/2017 10:41 AM

The Kentucky Democratic Party has named Mary Nishimuta as its new executive director, KDP announced in a news release Friday.

The position had been discussed in the immediate aftermath of last year’s election cycle, when Democrats lost control of the state’s House of Representatives for the first time since 1921.

Nishimuta, co-owner of Kentucky Coffeetree Café in Frankfort, said she hoped to implement a 120-county strategy in her new role as KDP’s executive director. She officially began work on Monday.

“Coming from a background where I’ve worked with a lot of the grassroots energy and then also with my recent work with state central, my goal and my vision is to be able to marry both that energy along with the experience to really create a Democratic Party that works for the people of Kentucky and really listens to and addresses their everyday issues,” Nishimuta said in a phone interview with Spectrum News.

A member of the KDP State Central Executive Committee, Nishimuta has also served as a national team leader for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and as a delegate and rules committee member at the Democratic National Convention.

Nishimuta helped organize Tuesday’s Come Together and Fight Back rally stop in Louisville featuring Sanders and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, and she said the energy that fueled Sanders’ campaign among Democrats hasn’t waned since President Donald Trump took office this year.

She sees her new role with KDP as a way to apply the experiences she gained nationally to a more local focus.

As a staunch Sanders supporter, she also sees her appointment as a signal of a more unified Democratic Party at a time when more Sanders backers become involved with the KDP, she said.

“Folks on state central have their ears open and are welcoming that energy, so this is really just a natural extension of the bridge that has already started to get created,” Nishimuta said. “I think it’s just a very natural path for us to start walking on together.”

KDP spokesman Daniel Lowry said that KDP Chairwoman Sannie Overly and members of the State Central Executive Committee were involved in the selection process and that the committee as a whole does not vote on staffing decisions. He declined to disclose Nishimuta’s salary as executive director, information that can be gleaned from the party’s public financial filings in the future.

In a news release, the party praised Nishimuta’s background in grassroots organizing and private-sector experience.

“She will be a tremendous asset to the party as we fight for better jobs, education and health in Kentucky,” Overly said in a statement.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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