Democrat Ron Leach is running for Kentucky’s Second Congressional District seat held by Republican Brett Guthrie in next year’s election.
A 49-year-old Brandeburg, Ky. resident, Leach is a farmer and retired U.S. Army major, who served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Leach campaign will be run by Lacey Connell, who worked as a field organizer with a Democratic group that helped elect U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. They officially kick-off on July 20, but Leach launched a campaign website on Monday to collect contributions.
Leach says he is running to represent Kentuckians who have been left behind in the economy, adding members of Congress are more concerned with serving special interest groups than working families.
“These folks are not represented and we need a congressman who places his constituent’s needs above lobbyists and special interest groups,” he told WFPL.
This is Leach’s first run for public office, but observers have said he is a credible opponent who plans to run against Washington’s unpopularity as much as Republican incumbent Brett Guthrie’s record.
According to poll numbers, Congress’s approval ratings are at historic lows and the lack of bipartisan cooperation—particularly in the Republican-controlled House—has been a consistent criticism since the 2010 elections.
“I have two combat deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan where we were there to help start up functional democracies. As I was deployed, myself and my fellow soldiers hear the news coming from back home that makes us question do we have a functional democracy,” says Leach. “Can anything be accomplished? Can they set aside party partisanship? Can they place governance over ideology? Can they place people over party?”
Leach admits it will be a challenge to keep up with Guthrie’s financial headstart.
First elected in 2008, Guthrie is expecting to report nearly $1.1 million in an upcoming campaign finance report. And he thumped his last Democratic challenger by almost a 30-point margin.
“Representative Guthrie is focused on balancing the federal budget, repealing and replacing Obamacare with health care solutions that bring down costs for working families, and passing legislation that makes it easier for Kentuckians to find good paying jobs. Brett looks forward to continuing to fight for conservative values in the weeks and months ahead,” says Guthrie campaign spokesman Scott Jennings.
Leach’s announcement avoided any mention of Guthrie specifically, but in a telephone interview the Democratic contender told WFPL he believes the congressman is out of touch with constituents.
“Accounts are that Brett Guthrie is a civil, decent person and I don’t want to attack him personally. But he is failing to represent the average Kentuckian. He votes 96 percent of the time straight party line,” says Leach. “He’s representing Mitch McConnell, he’s representing Speak Boehner, and he’s not representing my friends or neighbors. He’s definitely not representing me.”
The Second Congressional District is made up of 21 western and central Kentucky counties and includes the cities of Owensboro, Bowling Green and Elizabethtown.