Phillip M. Bailey
Louisville Courier Journal
Published 2:33 PM EDT Jul 18, 2019
Kentucky Democrats will have more options on next year’s ballot when deciding who should take on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in 2020.
Farmer and retired Marine Mike Broihier (pronounced Broy-er), a first-time candidate, entered the race Thursday with a three-minute advertisement that calls on voters to forget their labels.
“It’s time to retire Mitch McConnell,” Broihier said in an interview with the Courier Journal this week. “We have to do it to restore our democracy, and I’ve been warned about what he’s capable of doing, but it doesn’t scare me.”
The spot features a diverse group of Kentuckians holding tiny chalkboards with different slurs and descriptions, such as “baby killer” and “hillbilly” and “queer.”
“Labels are powerful things,” Broihier says in the ad. “For 35 years, Mitch McConnell has used labels to reinforce old prejudices, divide us, to maintain his grip on power.”
Related: KSR’s Matt Jones yanked from TV show amid US Senate speculation
Broihier, 57, is a Wisconsin native who moved to the Bluegrass State in 2005 after he and his wife, Lynn, also a retired Marine officer, bought a 75-acre farm in Lincoln County. He said the two have raised grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, pigs and sheep on their farm.
Since living in Kentucky, he has worked as a reporter and editor for The Interior Journal, a small town newspaper which is the third-oldest such publication in the state.
Broihier said being a rural journalist, farmer and military veteran gives him a unique perspective and qualification to run.
“I’ve been doing this in Kentucky for 15 years, and I really think it’s a part of me,” he said. “I think I’ve got a heck of a lot more in common with the people in Kentucky maybe than McConnell ever had.”
Broihier is the third Democrat to have officially entered the primary contest, which could be one of the more watched races in 2020.
Health care professional Steve Cox, of Madisonville, entered the race in May but has made little noise since then.
Amy McGrath vs. Mitch McConnell: 5 things to know about the 2020 Senate race
Former Marine Amy McGrath, who has gained the most national attention, has been in the race since last week. She is the presumed frontrunner in the race given her support from party leaders and various major groups such as VoteVets.
McGrath has already raked in more than $5 million, but she stumbled in the first days of her race after saying she would have voted to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Those missteps have spawned concern among many progressive voters and Democratic officials, such as Rep. John Yarmuth, who say that there should be a contested primary election next year.
Other Democrats who are thinking about running include sports radio host Matt Jones, state Rep. Charles Booker, of Louisville, and House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, of Sandy Hook.
Broihier discussed the status of the race, meeting with McGrath and his views on various issues in a one-on-one interview with the Courier Journal this week. Here are highlights of that conversation.
On McGrath’s rollout, flip-flop
CJ: How would you describe Amy McGrath’s debut, and did it give you the inspiration to run?
Broihier: We have a connection through the Marine Corps, and I got her personal email and said, “Hey, we’ve met before and I supported you in your congressional race.” We met and talked for about two hours. She was the first person I told I was interested in running.
CJ: Were you troubled by her rollout at all and the messaging about President Trump and her flip on Justice Brett Kavanaugh?
Broihier: The Kavanaugh thing was inexplicable to me. She found Christine Blasey Ford to be a credible witness, but yeah she would have voted for Kavanaugh. That was troubling. At the core of what troubles me is I don’t recognize her from the candidate she was just a year ago.
Yarmuth: Amy McGrath’s early errors show a primary challenge ‘might be helpful’
CJ: I’m guessing you wouldn’t have voted for Judge Kavanaugh to be on the Supreme Court?
Broihier: No. If you accept the fact that Ford was credible, then how could you? I stopped right there. On its face that was disqualifying.
CJ: Are you worried about a contentious Democratic primary?
Broihier: I don’t know if it has to be contentious … but there has to be a primary.
CJ: What distinguishes you in this race from your opponents?
Broihier: If I had an elevator pitch, I’d ask them what’s on their mind before they go to bed or put their kids on the school bus. And if they said, “what are they going to do for me” I would say champion economic justice, because Kentucky is being left behind from Appalachia to the Mississippi, we are being left behind.
CJ: What does economic justice mean?
Broihier: I don’t want to make it sound like it’s everything to every person, but let’s break it down. I talked to a woman named Lauren — she was concerned about why men and women aren’t paid the same. She said, “what more do women have to do?” And I said it’s up to policymakers to enforce the rules. Another young man reminded me for him it was about redlining, because where he lives he can’t get a small business loan or a mortgage on a new house.
CJ: Do you support medical marijuana, recreational marijuana or both?
Broihier: Both. Take a look at what’s happening in Colorado. It’s not a big state with a lot of people, but they cleared another $250 million in taxes last year. While it would have to scale in a place like Kentucky, it would go a long way. You regulate it and you tax it.
CJ: Have you ever smoked marijuana?
Broihier: Yes … much younger.
CJ: Should there be any restriction or regulation on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy?
Broihier: I think there’s probably a time in the development from embryo to fetus, I think it’s around 21 weeks, beyond which there is absolutely and positively must be exceptions made. There cannot be a hard-and-fast rule that says if you make it past this day you are going to carry this baby to term. Whether it’s the situation surrounding the conception, such as rape, and re-traumatize her all over again or the health of the mother or viability of the fetus. This was settled five decades ago correctly under Roe v. Wade.
CJ: Should Congress have a role in these mass shootings that catch the nation’s attention but also the day-to-day gun violence?
Broihier: I live in the country at the end of a quarter-mile-long driveway. All of my neighbors have guns, farmers have guns and everyone I know pretty much in Kentucky has guns. Every single one of them supports universal background checks. I believe 84% of NRA members support background checks.
CJ: Then why is it so difficult to get through Congress?
Broihier: Because the Senate majority leader doesn’t want to move it. I don’t know if the thought of dead children keeps Mitch McConnell up at night, but he doesn’t want to do it because he’s beholden to the gun manufacturers. People in Kentucky pride themselves on common sense, and they would not be averse to common sense restrictions. It is a right to keep and bear arms, but with rights comes a lot of responsibilities. There are things most people agree upon: instant background checks, restrictions on devices and modifications that make semi-automatic weapons and make it fire like an automatic weapons. The single point of failure resides in the Senate majority leader.
Read this: Kentucky’s new concealed carry law: Here’s what you should know
President Trump and 2020 contenders
CJ: Who did you vote for in 2016 for president?
Broihier: I voted for Hillary Clinton.
CJ: Clinton lost Kentucky by 30 percentage points. You’re clearly in the minority, and you want to represent this state?
Broihier: Well, I’ll tell you who was popular here who was my primary choice: Bernie Sanders. People here in Kentucky were, I think, looking for somebody different … I voted for Hillary Clinton because she won in the primary and she absolutely, positively wasn’t Donald Trump.
CJ: Is there someone in the 2020 Democratic primary you’re leaning toward?
Broihier: I like Mayor Pete. I like the way he talks, he’s got so much experience … I used to be a little turned off when Elizabeth Warren speaks, but I’ve got to say I don’t know whether I’ve changed or she’s changed, but when she gets going she is passionate and so smart. What I see in her now is she’s letting it all hang out. Kamala Harris is also interesting.
CJ: Is President Trump a racist?
Broihier: Either it’s just grotesque race-baiting or he’s a racist. It is one or the other and both of them are horrific. He is throwing this rancid meat at his, I think, very, very small base. I don’t think we’re talking about your average Kentuckian who voted for him, I think we’re talking about his whatever it is, 17% of the hardest of the hardcore. Whether in his heart of hearts, I can’t look into his heart whether he’s a racist or grotesque race-baiting but either one is horrible and bad for America.
Sen. Mitch McConnell: President Donald Trump ‘is not a racist’
Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or email@example.com. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/philb.