More than two years later, Ermold says he’s “ready to move on” from the disappointment he experienced that day by unseating Davis as county clerk in 2018.
The 43-year-old, who is an assistant professor of English at the University of Pikeville, formally announced his candidacy Wednesday after weeks of speculation. The Democrat told HuffPost he sees the role as an opportunity to help bring people together from both sides of the political aisle in a community that’s been splintered since Davis’s anti-marriage equality crusade made global headlines.
“The thing about me is that I’m not just a complainer,” Ermold said. “If I’m going to point out something that’s wrong, then I want to be a part of the solution, too. For me, it’s about community. It’s going to be about bringing the community back together and, well, making sure there’s somebody in that office who will serve all the people.”
Davis, for her part, has announced plans to seek another term next fall. The clerk became a darling of the conservative Christian crowd when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling, citing her religious beliefs. She was briefly jailed for contempt of court.
Ermold joins at least three other Democrats in challenging Davis, who changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 2015. After mulling the idea for more than a year, he began considering a campaign more seriously in October when Davis, who identifies as an Apostolic Christian, accompanied the Liberty Counsel’s Harry Mihet to Romania with the aim of encouraging lawmakers to adopt legislation against same-sex marriage there.
“The trip to Romania ... I think that’s what really triggered me,” he said. “Our county clerk needs to be focused more on our people, and not so much on trying to spread a message of divide across the world.”
“Those despicable acts of those politicians are almost more hurtful than the denial of the marriage license itself,” he said. “Those are the people that our children are supposed to be looking up to.”
Ermold is aware, of course, that his bid comes at a time when many in the queer community are concerned for their future in America’s political climate. In recent months, President Donald Trump has taken a hard line against LGBTQ rights, while politicians like Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore have run on an anti-queer platform.
“Some ... have said I need to avoid the word ‘LGBTQ.’ They say I need to avoid the word ‘gay,’ and I can understand that. But here’s the thing: it’s a part of my identity. And it’s a little dishonest to avoid that.”
He’s already faced some criticism, too. Speaking to The Associated Press, Mat Staver, Davis’ attorney, blasted Ermold for being “a single-issue” candidate who would have “no idea how to run a clerk’s office.”
“All David has is one issue,” Staver told the AP. “Much of what the clerk does has nothing to do with wedding licenses. It’s a broad service to the public.”
Ermold didn’t seem too vexed.
“Some ... have said I need to avoid the word ‘LGBTQ.’ They say I need to avoid the word ‘gay,’ and I can understand that,” he said. “That’s not the central focus of our campaign. But here’s the thing: it’s a part of my identity. And it’s a little dishonest to avoid that.”
Ultimately, he added, his bid for county clerk would be about looking to the future rather than rehashing controversies of the past.
“The people in our community are ready to move on, and they don’t want Kim Davis out there making announcements, going to other countries and dragging us through the dirt over and over and over again,” he said. “And that’s what she keeps doing. They want it to stop, and we’re going to make it stop.”