Mike Broihier is one of 10 Democratic candidates competing in the May 19 Kentucky primary to be the nominee for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senate Majority Leader Mitch Connell, who has seven Republican challengers in the primary.
Broihier is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who lives on a 75-acre farm in Lincoln County in central Kentucky with his wife, also a retired Marine Corps officer.
Broihier stopped by the WKU Public Radio studio in Bowling Green to talk with reporter Rhonda Miller.
Miller: First, I'd like to ask you why you decided to seek this Democratic nomination for Senate.
Broihier: The decision was not an easy one. But it was an obvious one. You know, my wife and I have been farming here in Kentucky for 15 years, kind of trying our best to mind our own business. And the slow moving disaster in Washington has really alarmed both of us enough to kind of pull us back into public life. I took a look at the candidates we've run against Mitch McConnell in the past, and for 35 years, we've kind of run Republican lights against Mitch McConnell, and also people who have not been really enthusiastic about running as a Democrat or running as progressive. I took a look at my resume as a retired Marine officer and as a farmer in Kentucky for 15 years, a school teacher and as a newspaper editor, and I realized that no one was my resume had ever run against Mitch McConnell. And I'm not ashamed about running as Democrat. And I'm not afraid of running on progressive values, which I think is going to excite Kentucky voters to come out to the polls. And finally vote Mitch McConnell out.
Miller: Why are you betting on the fact that your progressive stance on the on the issues will draw Kentucky voters, because it is still a conservative state?
Broihier: It is, that's the perception of it. But if you look at the issues, for example, common sense gun reform, this is something that is supported by almost every single American. It's come out of the House with bipartisan support. There's bipartisan support in the Senate. But this is something that Mitch McConnell has refused to bring to vote in the U.S. Senate. Everyone I know owns guns. They're farmers, and they're responsible gun owners.
Miller: Another important issue in Kentucky is health care. What's your basic stand on health care?
Broihier: I think ultimately, long term, we're going to end up with a single-payer system. I think it'll probably be on the model of Canada, where basically the government is the insurance company and people still have their doctors, their private hospitals, private pharmacies and things like that. Right now, I think the most efficacious way forward is probably the ACA plus a Medicare option.
Miller: One of the issues I've seen that you've been talking about is social justice. How do you define that? And what would you be doing in that arena?
Broihier: Let's take one example, mass incarceration, it is obviously a social justice issue because we incarcerate particularly African-American men at a way higher rate than we do Caucasian males. We've got the second highest incarceration rate of women in the country. We've made prisons business. We need to take the word business and prison out of the same sentence. And we need to only send people to jail who are a threat to themselves and for others. I used to think social and economic justice are two different things. But really, it's so inextricably tied, you can't even separate them.
Miller: And Mike, you've been a teacher or you are a teacher. So what do you teach and how do you see the whole issue with education in the state?
Broihier: You know, from November to March, it's too cold and muddy and wet to do anything on the farm. So I substitute teach and Lincoln County schools. When the kids go home because of a snow day, they're supposed to work from home with their school provided Chromebooks. Many of these kids don't even have Internet at their home. And so their parents are dragging them out to do their homework at McDonald's because that's where you can get an access. And so access to reliable rural broadband is one of my top priorities.
Miller: If you get the Democratic nomination for that senate seat, the big question is how to defeat Senator Mitch McConnell. What would be your strategy to beat him?
Broihier: You beat him relentlessly with the truth. Mitch, you know, his special Voodoo, as I like to call it, is the ability to claim credit for things and take none of the blame. We beat Mitch McConnell with relentless truth. Talk to farmers, teachers, people in urban areas, people in Appalachia and talk them saying listen, Mitch McConnell is not a friend. He's a friend of coal, but not coal miners. He's a friend of charter schools, but not public schools. So that's how you beat him, tell the truth.
Miller: Thanks for coming to talk to us, Mike. Mike Briohier running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. For WKU Public Radio, I'm Rhonda Miller.