David Ermold is running as a Democrat for the position of Rowan County clerk in Kentucky, NPR reports. The assistant professor of English at the University of Pikeville plans to run on a platform of fairness, integrity, and unity — and he knows a thing or two about his opponent's track record with those values.
In 2015, current Rowan County clerk Kim Davis made headlines — and spent five days in jail — when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ermold and his longtime partner, David Moore, were among those couples, and Davis denied the pair a license not once but twice. They had been together for over 15 years while Davis had been divorced three times, but she claimed she was following "God's word," NBC News reported at the time.
"I think we need to deal with the circumstances and the consequences of what happened," Ermold told The Associated Press. "I don't think the other candidates are looking at a larger message. I have an obligation here, really, to do this and to set things right."
According to Newsweek, Davis has continued her anti-LGBTQ+ crusade over the past two years. She now issues licenses to same-sex couples, but only because laws were adjusted and she no longer has to sign the licenses. The New York Times reported in October that Davis had taken her agenda abroad to Romania to campaign against LGBTQ+ rights.
Ermold knows that this won't be an easy race: In Rowan County, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 21 points. "We have some minds to change, and that’s going to be difficult," Ermold told Newsweek. “One of the politicians doesn’t think Rowan County is ready...That day was the day in my mind that I thought, You know what, I’m going to prove all these people wrong."
The county may be red, but the November 7, 2017 election results showed a shift in traditionally red counties. For example, Danica Roem became Virginia's first openly transgender elected official — and she defeated an incumbent who refused to debate her and repeatedly misgendered her with male pronouns.
"[The election] will be up to the people," Davis said on Wednesday. "I think I do a good job." But, for an extended period of time, she refused to do her job at all — and voters may keep that in mind when it's time to cast their ballots.