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March 24th, 2023

seward county democratsSeward County Democratic Party Vice Chair Kathleen Alonso, Chair Kay Burtzloff and Secretary Debra Huddleston stop for a photo after being elected to their respective positions at the party’s most recent meeting Tuesday evening. Kerry Burns was also elected as treasurer, but was unable to attend the meeting. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The Seward County Democratic Party retained most of its leadership during its reorganization meeting Thursday evening. 

After some brief discussion, Kay Burtzloff retained her seat as the party chair, Kathleen Alonso retained her seat as the party vice chair, and Debra Huddleston retained her seat as the party secretary. The only major change in the leadership was to elect Kerry Burns (who was unable to attend the meeting) as the party treasurer, replacing Saul Delgado. There was much excitement expressed after the reorganization.

“I've been serving as the party Chair for a little while now, I started just before Jack Carlile passed away and he had been the party chair for quite a while himself,” Burtzloff said. “We need to have a more organized Democratic Party if we're going to be able to access statewide information and statewide funding and some of that – we have to have those resources so we can support our local candidates. I'm happy to say in the past couple years, we've gone from one elected Democrat to five Democrats currently serving on governing boards in town. I don't think a lot of people realize all of our local Democrats were elected in non-partisan races, but that just shows people are willing to look beyond party if they see that person as a valued member of the community and a viable candidate.”

“I'm grateful to continue the work, I know there's a lot more we can do in order to have a more established party, so if we want to keep that momentum going that we've gained in the past few years, we need to keep at it,” Alonso said. “Overall, I'm really happy to help continue that work.”

“I'm happy to continue as secretary because I feel like that's where I can contribute my skills the most, so I'm also really glad to continue in my particular role,” Huddleston said. 

All three agreed there is much to look forward to in the near future.

“One of my main goals, and I've talked about this in the past, is the need for more contested races. It really bothers me when we have uncontested races – for one thing, it depresses voter turnout because that makes people think 'Why should I go vote if there's only one option?' One of the things we really want to work on is increasing voter turnout, and in order to help with that, there have to be contested races, and there have to be choices for the voters,” Burtzloff said. “In the past several elections, we've had too many races uncontested, particularly with the county, and there are very rarely any challengers in the primaries. Something else I tell people, and we saw this in this last election, is if you don't want to run as a Republican or Democrat, you can run as an unaffiliate, and the only difference in running is you have to file by petition, you can't just pay the fee and run. This last race we saw for a county commission seat, we had someone run as an unaffiliated candidate and come within 16 votes of winning, which proves to me how being an unaffiliated candidate is a very viable option. The fact that the last Liberal City Commission race had a write-in candidate who not only won but was the top vote-getter, which was something VERY new. What we're seeing in Seward County, because we have such a diverse population, that's what brings real vitality to the community, that we have such a wonderful variety of people, I think that's going to show a lot more in how people run for office and how they get elected. I really hope we start seeing younger voters getting out and getting registered voting, I'd like to see those numbers from this past election and take a look at the demographics. We saw in the August primary, Seward County was the only Western Kansas county that voted down the proposed amendment, and that tells me a lot.”

“I'm really excited the Seward County Democratic Party is meeting monthly and has good attendance and we pick up a few new people nearly every meeting,” Huddleston added. “That's very exciting to me because we need to be active in the community and make ourselves more known.”

“I'm excited for elections, because when those are talked about, people don't really realize all of that work starts months and months in advance, so starting that new cycle before too long is really exciting and recruiting candidates to run and all of that,” Alonso said. “I would like to remind people there are elections that will be happening in 2023 for the Liberal City Commission, the USD 480 school board and the Seward County Community College Board of Trustees, so getting that work started is really exciting. And it's really sad how low the turnout is in the off-year elections, and that's something we've been working to improve on. The off-years are always a good time because that's where we see the most change and we're able to get out the most information. The last election, we saw some significant changes on the boards, and like Kay said, we'd love to see that keep happening.”

All three also agreed there will be more work done regarding community outreach. 

“One of the things that's being suggested as part of the Rural Power Initiative is to maybe do more in the way of community service and things like that. However, the problem some of us in the party have is we wear many hats and we're already doing a lot around the community, so they wouldn't necessarily see us doing that work on behalf of the Democratic Party since we're out and about so much,” Burtzloff said. “One of the many reasons I'd like to see us continue to increase our membership is so we can do that work and get ourselves more out there.”

“And something we can do with outreach is be more active on social media and keep people more updated and all of that,” Alonso agreed. “We're learning how to maneuver that and reach more people, especially younger people, so people will know more about what we're doing.”

All three also offered encouragement for attendance at future party meetings. 

“If anyone wants to attend the meetings, they're more than welcome to do so, we meet the second Thursday of each month at Liberal Memorial Library, and our next meeting is Feb. 9,” Huddleston said. 

“And anyone who is interested in coming, we want to make sure there is space for them, and regardless of how active they are, there is room for them to join,” Alonso added. 

“I would also like add, you don't have to be a registered Democrat to attend the meetings. I know there are people in town who are registered Republicans only so they can vote in the primaries, but they definitely lean more Democrat with their views,” Burtzloff said. “We never want to exclude anyone who wants to come – if people want to just learn about what the party is all about, we want them to feel comfortable coming to the meetings and observing, everyone is more than welcome.”