Other than KY-03 (Louisville), KY-06— which includes Fayette (Lexington) and Franklin (Frankfort) counties– is the only congressional district in Kentucky where a Democrat has a reasonable chance to win. In 2018, the DCCC put its hopes in a conservative Democrat, Amy McGrath, who lost to incumbent Andy Barr, after announcing she was looking forward to working with Trump. This year’s Democratic candidate is high school chemistry teacher Chris Preece, who is more likely to talk about working with Bernie than with Trump.
Many Democrats in swing districts write off rural voters as an afterthought with a nod in their direction by promising rural broadband and then concentrating on cities and suburbs and ceding the rural parts of the districts to Republicans. Preece, from a rural, coal-mining county himself– and a holler– has no intention of doing anything like that.
Please read his guest post below and consider contributing to his campaign by clicking on the 2022 Blue America congressional thermometer and contributing what you can.
The Chemistry Of Rural Politics
-by Chris Preece
People often see Kentucky as a red state, but I see it as a state with a lot of untapped potential. In the 2020 election, 42% of Kentucky’s voters didn’t cast a ballot. If I had a class of 31 students, that would be like 13 students deciding not to take an exam. This is unacceptable. As their future US Congressperson, it is now my duty to engage them, and empower them to vote, as I do with my students to learn chemistry.
I care, listen, and do what I can to help, which is my mantra for students in my class that are struggling. I teach high school chemistry, a tough class for most students. One way that I engage students is through comic books. I create science comics to help my students learn the material, to relate it to everyday life, and/or to make it fun with superheroes. This is just one of many ways I engage my students differently to learn content.
I have recently started to go out and meet the people where they are, like festivals, jobs, and schools. When I talk to people who aren’t voting there are common themes like, my vote doesn’t count, and politicians are all crooks.
This should not and cannot be the case.
Many of these disengaged voters are rural who feel left out, lied to, and at best used. Thinking back on my childhood, I grew up in Martin County, Kentucky, which is 100% rural. In the county’s heyday, it was home to several booming coal mines with workers making comfortable middle class incomes that covered 100% of medical expenses. Now, the largest employer in Martin County is the school system, which provides jobs that are at or just above the poverty line, covering much less for healthcare. This is the case in many rural counties. It must get better.
I’m running for US Congress in Kentucky’s 6th district, which covers 19 counties, of which 13 are predominantly rural with only one that has no rural area. Most politicians come around during elections peddling their snake oil, making promises they have no intention of keeping, like bringing back coal or manufacturing jobs. No wonder so many folks are disengaged from voting.
My experience living in a rural area, and talking to rural voters, has highlighted two key areas of improvement, jobs and healthcare.
We must invest in the people who live in these rural counties to create and sustain business that the people in the area want. President Obama gave us promise zones, which have helped some in southeastern Kentucky, but it is not enough. We must provide rural folks with the money and resources to develop companies that can tap into their area’s resources. Not only should we help them startup, we should help them maintain and grow their businesses. This will provide sustainable local jobs to a region starved of them, as well as the ability to retain the bright young minds that leave the area for greener pastures.
Now, not every bright young person wants to be a business owner, which is why I plan to travel the counties talking to people asking them what they would like to see in their counties, and think about how I can help them. My vision is to see Kentucky thrive, but it is not my place to dictate how. People need opportunities.
Many of the people that do say home in rural areas do so because of their family ties. They want to stay and help take care of their aging grandparents or parents who would not move if you paid them to. I get it, especially in Appalachia, there’s no other place like it. Too often healthcare in many areas is over thirty minutes away. The holler where I grew up was an hour away to the closest Walmart and hospital. Once you get there, the cost is outrageous. Many people wont go to the doctor because of the cost, or they delay it so long they make the problem a lot worse than if they went to get their early ailment checked out. If only we had Medicare-For-All, which would unburden so many of the economic worries around going to the doctor.
If only we had more politicians that cared, listened, and did what they could to help.