As the country struggled with another round of mass shootings last summer, a group gathered on the steps of the federal courthouse in Louisville calling for Mitch McConnell to pass some sort of gun control legislation.
It was August, right after the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, and Mike Broihier was there to speak. He had just launched his Senate campaign about a month before.
“The people who have been vetted and funded by the NRA and the gun industry need to make a choice,” Broihier said.
“They need to either deny their paymasters or get run out of their jobs.”
Few people had heard of Broihier at that point, and he hadn’t announced his name. When he finished his speech, several members of the crowd shouted for him to say who he was.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’m a retired Marine. When you surprise people in my old business, that was good,” Broihier said afterwards.
Broihier is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who served in Japan, Korea, Somalia and Afghanistan. He retired in 2005 and bought a farm outside of Stanford in Lincoln County where he raises asparagus and livestock. He has also worked as a substitute teacher during winter months and as editor of the The Interior Journal, a local weekly newspaper.
Broihier frequently highlights his diverse background, saying it helps him communicate ideas to people across the state.
“Progressive issues. You can spread them in the country as long as you are right, and as long as you are patient and you don’t make people feel like you’re saying they’re dumb,” Broihier said during a March candidate forum in Newport.
Broihier is one of the three main Democrats fighting for the chance to take on Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race this year, along with state Rep. Charles Booker and retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath.
Broihier has advocated for progressive policies like the “Green New Deal,” Medicare for All and universal basic income, which helped get him the endorsement of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
He was also endorsed by Wendell Berry, the famed Kentucky novelist, environmental activist and farmer.
But he’s facing an uphill battle in this year’s primary, which has been largely dominated by McGrath, who lost high-profile Congressional race in 2018 and was recruited by Democratic leaders in Washington to run against McConnell this year.
In a recent ad, Broihier attacked McGrath for her bumpy campaign rollout and for not taking a harder stance against President Donald Trump, saying she “lost a winnable House race” and is running as a “pro-Trump politician.”
And McGrath’s fundraising and name recognition advantage has lost some of its bite in recent weeks, especially among progressive voters.
But Broihier also has to reckon with Charles Booker, who has surged to prominence in the wake of protests over police violence in his hometown of Louisville and across the state and country.
Neither McGrath nor Broihier showed up to the first days of protests in Louisville. Broihier said he didn’t want to use the protests for a political advantage.
“If I was a citizen, just a regular-old taxpayer, I’d be with them. But I just did not want it to appear like I was trying to take advantage of people who are really suffering,” Broihier said during a debate on KET earlier this month.
Broihier ended up attending a teachers’ rally for social justice in Louisville on June 5.
The primary election is on June 23 and has some changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. The deadline has passed to request a mail-in ballot, but all 120 Kentucky counties will have at least one in-person voting place.
This story has been corrected to note that Broihier attended the June 5 protest.