Democrat Mike Broihier, a political newcomer with a broad resume as a Marine officer, farmer and small-town newspaperman, ventured into a high-stakes Senate race as the latest military-tested candidate aiming to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next year in Kentucky.
Broihier acknowledged Thursday that his campaign starts with a virtual blank slate, needing to build name recognition and a campaign fund to compete with an establishment-backed rival in his own party. Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath entered the race last week to a rocky start while showing immediate fundraising prowess. Both Democrats rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.
Broihier set his sights on McConnell in his campaign announcement video, saying the Republican leader "refined the art of obstruction" and "weaponized the filibuster to his own political purposes. And when it doesn't fit, he throws the rules and 200 years of tradition onto the ash heap of history — democracy be damned."
He blasted McConnell for his self-anointed role as the Grim Reaper killing the priorities of House Democrats.
"While this may have served his political interest, it hasn't served ours," Broihier said in his online video launch. "It's time to retire Mitch McConnell and restore democracy."
The first-time candidate offered a message of unity across racial and urban-rural lines while accusing the six-term incumbent of using "labels to reinforce old prejudices, to divide us, to maintain his grip on power."
"This campaign is going to be a long, hard fight but it is a worthy cause because it is a fight for the soul of Kentucky," the former artillery officer said. "And it starts now."
Kentucky's 2020 primary isn't until next spring, but Broihier will need to be a quick study as a politician. He retired from the Marines in 2005 after a 21-year career that included assignments in Somalia, Japan and the Korean peninsula. He and his wife, Lynn, also a retired Marine officer, bought a farm near Stanford, Kentucky, where they've raised cattle, goats and sheep and grow asparagus sold at restaurants, food co-ops and farmers' markets.
Broihier, 57, began a five-year stint with his local weekly newspaper, The Interior Journal, in 2007 and became editor two years later.
"I came to Kentucky to farm," he said in an interview. "I didn't come here to run for political office. It's just been this growing frustration over the years that I finally said, 'Well, it's time to do something.'"
Broihier staked out positions opposed to some of President Donald Trump's top priorities. Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide in 2016 and remains a commanding presence in Kentucky politics. McConnell has closely attached himself to the Republican president in seeking another term.
Broihier said in an interview that he would have voted against the massive, GOP-backed package of individual and corporate tax cuts that became Trump's marquee legislative achievement.
"Mitch McConnell's contributors have gotten richer," he said. "But no one I know has gotten richer because of those tax cuts."
As for Trump's immigration policies, he denounced the detention facilities holding migrants near the nation's southern border as "horrific and un-American" and said the president's use of tariffs in disputes with key trading partners has hurt American companies, farmers and consumers.
Broihier said he would have opposed Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. McConnell has worked closely with Trump in winning Senate approval for a wave of conservative judges, including Kavanaugh, for seats on the federal bench.
Jumping into the political battle over abortion rights, Broihier said: "If I am elected, I will not vote for a federal judge who just doesn't accept the fact that the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade correctly."
It was a question about Kavanaugh that tripped up McGrath soon after she entered the Senate race.
McGrath, who narrowly lost a Kentucky congressional race last year, initially told the Courier Journal she would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the high court but changed her mind hours later. It put a damper on a highly publicized rollout that netted McGrath more than $2.5 million in campaign funds within 24 hours of announcing her run.
"It started with a big splash of money and then (she) kind of stepped in it," Broihier said of his fellow Marine.
Broihier portrayed McGrath as the favorite of Democratic insiders in Washington, but said that won't matter to voters in Kentucky.
"People in D.C. are keeping track of how much money she's raising," he said. "I don't think that means a hill of beans to the voters in Kentucky."