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[AUDIO] Longtime Political Operative Mike Pape Talks Running His Own 1st District Campaign

Mike Pape for Congress, via Facebook

With 11-term U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield retiring, three Republican candidates are vying for their party's nomination to represent Kentucky's 1st Congressional District - including Whitfield's longtime field director, Mike Pape.

John Null spoke with Pape as part of a series of interviews with the Republican candidates ahead of the May 17 primary. Hickman County Attorney Jason Batts' interview will air Friday on WKMS. For James Comer's interview, click here. Democrat Sam Gaskins is running unopposed.

Pape says, despite never holding elected office, he's the most experienced candidate in the race.

"I put in the time, I spent the years working diligently for the people of this district, right here in this district for Congressman Ed Whitfield. I didn't spend my time running around Washington or socializing on Capitol Hill. I spent my time in the 35 counties of the 1st Congressional District, helping people with problems they have with the federal government, kicking down doors of the federal bureaucracy, helping Congressman Whitfield pass important legislation that matters to this district."

Despite his work with Whitfield, Pape calls himself an outsider and criticizes primary opponent James Comer as a career politician.

Credit Jordan Smith
Mike Pape and his wife, Shannon, in-studio at WKMS

"Many times through the years, people have come to me and asked me to run for mayor of Hopkinsville, state Representative, state Senator, and every time that happened, I turned it down and I turned it down for this reason: I knew I could do more good working in 35 counties of this district helping people for Congressman Whitfield than I could stepping out there and running for office for myself in one city or three counties."

Pape said he will join the conservative House Freedom Caucus if he's elected. Batts has also pledged to join the Freedom Caucus, while Comer said he would prefer to operate independently in Congress.

"The establishment in Washington D.C. today - and I mean the leadership, House and Senate Republicans and Democrats - have got set in their ways and I don't think they're really willing to do what needs to be done to right the ship of our federal government. So I'm the guy that said - I, first - that I would try to join the Freedom Caucus in Washington D.C."

With regard to his voting on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, Pape said he will listen to the 1st District voters. He plans to stay in tune with the district by not moving to Washington.

"I'm going to go up there and I'm going to stay in my office during the week. I'm going to sleep on the couch or get a roll0ut bed, shower in the gym downstairs in the morning and I'm going to be back here every week. Whenever Congress is not voting, I'm going to be in the 1st District."

Note: This interview was conducted before the release of Pape's pro-border wall television ad that drew criticism.

John Null is the host and creator of Left of the Dial. From 2013-2016, he also served as a reporter in the WKMS newsroom.
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