Mike Broihier isn’t a name voters have likely heard of late, or even for a while. Though running for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s vaunted seat, other Democratic candidates like Amy McGrath and State Rep. Charles Booker may seem more recognizable due to TV commercials or recent visits to Mayfield.
Despite that — and the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down large gatherings like political town hall meetings — Broihier is rolling right along to get his name and message out to Kentucky voters with the help of staffers from a former presidential candidate.
Following entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Yang’s February exit from the Democratic presidential race, several staffers joined Broihier’s campaign.
“When we hit the quarantine, they just changed gears,” Broihier said, and pivoted from traditional campaigning and whistle stops to virtual town halls and Facebook Live streaming.
“We did one (this past week) in Trigg County; they set it up and facilitated the whole thing and say here’s a chance to meet a candidate even though you’ve got to do it with your phone or your iPad or your computer,” he explained.
He’s also live streaming each night at 6 p.m. CST. This past Tuesday, Broihier spoke with Kentucky Sports Report founder and host Matt Jones about his recent book on Mitch McConnell, titled “Mitch, Please!”
“We had probably 3,000 views, which is pretty good for a guy on a farm,” he said.
Broihier said his afternoon plan following his media interview was to pitch 90% of his asparagus harvest because of a freak snow Tuesday at his Lincoln County farm. “Of the 17 people running for U.S. Senate, not one will be picking crops by hand today, but I will,” he said.
Prior to farming, Broihier served with the U.S. Marine Corps and taught Naval Science at the University of California. He was also editor of The Interior Journal newspaper in Kentucky and substitute teaches in the Lincoln County Public School system. His wide range of experiences, he said, allows him to connect with people.
“I have the ability to relate to the struggles of the people of Kentucky, as a farmer and as a teacher,” he said. “I have way more in common with them and am able to understand what they need, want and expect from their leadership.”
What he has heard from feedback, especially now, is concerns over how fragile the country’s economic system is with its white knuckle grip to the stock market and likewise the connection between the health care system and employment.
“Last week, we put 6.6 million people on unemployment, so that’s 6 million families or households uninsured, and not only that, they’re facing the largest health crisis in the last 100 years in this country,” he said. “It’s a double whammy.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Broihier was advocating for a single-payer health care system along with universal-based income (UBI).
“When I was promoting it, it was because this is just socially and economically just,” he said. “Now, we need to do this to save people’s lives. In this stark new reality, people are much more open to big, transformative ideas than they would have been six months ago.”
He said with these ideas, the term “socialism” gets batted around while bail outs and pay outs have become a norm with big businesses like investment banks and auto makers. Instead, he proposes to inject capital into Main Street instead of Wall Street.
“You cannot keep giving money to corporations and expect something to change. With UBI, you flip the process and instead of giving money to corporations, you give it to people,” Broihier said. “When money is injected locally, it’s spent locally and also changes hands a lot quicker. People are buying clothes, buying food, paying off bills.”
Still, he has to clear the primary hurdle to get a crack at Sen. McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, who Broihier claims is the foundation of Washington D.C. partisanship.
“Mitch McConnell’s proud of being the ‘Grim Reaper.’ The things he’s proud of blocking are important to all Americans, regardless of their political orientation,” Broihier said. “He spent almost the last two years of the Obama administration trying to destroy the (Affordable Care Act). That’s people’s health care. This is what they need right now and it’s something he’s sworn to defeat. He doesn’t need health care; he has best health care in the world.
“But the last two months of this pandemic, people are starting to seriously re-think moving toward a more just economic system and certainly a more just health care system,” he added. “I don’t think there’s going to be a family in Kentucky not reached by this.”