By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service
FRANKFORT — A retired U.S. Army officer from Brandenburg plans to seek the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Republican Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie.
Ron Leach, who will turn 49 this Friday, is a southern Ohio native and a retired 29-year career military officer who now lives in Brandenburg.
Leach will likely make the elimination of a brigade combat team at Ft. Knox an issue, according to his campaign manager Lacey Connelly. Leach was stationed at Ft. Knox when he retired.
Leach recently penned a letter-to-the editor to newspapers around Ft. Knox criticizing “federal representatives” for being taken by surprise by the announcement of the Ft. Knox cutbacks which will likely cost the area as many as 10,000 jobs. The letter did not mention Guthrie by name.
Like Leach, Guthrie is a former military officer, having graduated from West Point before earning a Master’s Degree from Yale.
But in a brief telephone interview Monday, Leach said he couldn’t understand the apparent surprise by Guthrie about the Ft. Knox announcement following more than a year of discussion about downsizing the military.
He said Guthrie should have been aware of the possibility of cutbacks at Ft. Knox and “pushed back against it” because the brigade had only come to Ft. Knox in 2009 after significant investments in infrastructure and by the local communities.
Connelly said Leach will promote policies to “grow the middle class with broader equality and opportunity.”
“I’ve been a farmer, teacher, medical professional and a soldier but never a politician,” Leach said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “I can’t sit by when Congress cares more about satisfying lobbyists and special interests than helping working families. That has to change, and I’m running to change it.”
Guthrie, an Alabama native who now lives in Bowling Green, was first elected in 2008 when he defeated Owensboro state Democratic Sen. David Boswell after incumbent Republican Ron Lewis decided not to run for re-election. In 2010, Guthrie easily defeated Owensboro contractor Ed Marksberry.
Scott Jennings, a spokesman for Guthrie’s campaign issued the following statement after Leach’s announcement.
“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.”
Leach didn’t shy away from distinguishing his views on the economy and the middle class from Republican positions.
“For 20 years they’ve abandoned the middle class, attacked workers and enriched the few,” Leach said.
Asked how he might respond to Republican attempts to link him to Democratic President Barack Obama’s policies, Leach said, “I’m siding with the Kentuckians of the Second District who have not been represented in Congress since the passing of Congressman (William) Natcher.”
Natcher was a Democrat from Bowling Green who represented the district for nearly 40 years before his death. Republicans have held the seat since then.
Leach’s biography on his campaign website (www.ronleach4ky.com) indicates he has a BS in agriculture and education from Ohio State University and a BS in Medical Science. He served in the Army as an enlisted man and non-commissioned officer before becoming a commissioned officer and eventually attaining the rank of Major and serving as a physician’s assistant.
He served four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, including the final time with Third Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Knox.
Leach said his campaign will file a Federal Election Campaign report by July 15. He said the campaign is still crunching numbers and declined to say how much he’s raised.
Connelly, his campaign manager is a West Virginia native who previously worked on John Edwards’ presidential campaign in Iowa and for the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign for Heidi Heitkamp’s successful U.S. Senate race.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.