Top Sumter Democrat brings ‘David vs. Goliath’ mentality to the table every day

There’s no question that the chair of the Sumter County Democratic Executive Committee operates with a specific theory in mind – David vs. Goliath.

At 5-foot-2-inches tall, Cathie Hardy literally has to step up to podiums and oftentimes needs a step stool. But if one’s not available, she quickly overcomes that challenge by grabbing the microphone and walking in front of the stage.

Cathie Hardy, chair of the Sumter County Democratic Executive Committee, displays the Golden Gavel award her group received at the 2019 Democratic State Party convention. The award is given for the best vote-by-mail campaign conducted by a small county.

Frankly, David vs. Goliath is a metaphor that describes Hardy’s entire life.

That was never more evident than when she accepted the job of leading the Sumter County Democratic Executive Committee. She didn’t hesitate to take on the challenge in a county where Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.

With the help of her committee members, Hardy has guided the furnishing and staffing of the party headquarters at 300 S. Main St. in Wildwood. Volunteers staff the front desk, dealing with a daily barrage of phone calls and walk-in traffic.

Volunteers also make door-to-door visits and man a call center daily. They contact registered Democrats and urge them to vote by mail and offer special greetings on their birthdays. And they have participated in fun days when Mahjong-playing members of the Democratic Women’s Club gathered for social activities.

Hardy readily admits that although she was active in the Democratic organization, she had a lot to learn when she took on the job as chair of the executive committee. But utilizing knowledge gained in previous administrative positions, she leaned on her existing board and added to the volunteer base, utilizing their knowledge and skills.

In the 2018 election, candidates popped into Sumter County on short notice, often requesting that Hardy invite people to attend their appearances. Several groups used the headquarters for news conferences. Taking note, Hardy upgraded the public address system and podium to maximize candidate appearances in the 2020 election campaign.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the headquarters closed in March. But that didn’t shut down the work Hardy and company needed to accomplish. With cell phones provided by the executive committee, volunteers stepped up the pace and made thousands of calls to Sumter County Democrats with the vote-by-mail suggestion.

On a high note, Sumter County Democrats made a strong showing in the 2018 election, which earned the executive committee the Golden Gavel award at the 2019 Democratic State Party convention. The award is given for the best vote-by-mail campaign conducted by a small county.

Hardy also takes pride in her support for the creation of a newsletter, which is e-mailed to up to 4,000 Sumter County Democrats each week. Another high point was a gala that drew Lilly Ledbetter as speaker. A fair pay act passed by Congress bears Ledbetter’s name, a tribute to her battle with the Goodyear Tire Co. after she discovered she was being paid far less than men doing the same job. And an upcoming “virtual” gala will be highlighted by guest speaker Congresswoman Val Demmings.

The Villages Democratic Club technically comes under the jurisdiction of the executive committee but has its own leadership and guides its own programs. As previous county chairs have done, Hardy points with pride to the club’s position as the largest Democratic club in the state.

With the numbers heavily stacked against her, Hardy says she knows getting a Democrat elected to a local or state office will be a challenge. But she also knows the votes generated in Sumter County will have an impact in the November presidential election – a reminder to her that David defeated Goliath.

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