By Simon Isham—
Greg Leichty, a U of L professor in the Communications department, announced on Sunday that he would be making a bid for U.S. Senate.
Leichty made the announcement that he would be a candidate in the 2014 Democratic primary via Facebook, Twitter and his My Opera blog “Facts Matter.”
“I am running mostly because the voices of some ordinary citizens need to be heard,” Leichty said in an email to the Cardinal. “I am at a stage in life where career and family obligations are lessened so I have more degrees of freedom than many who might consider running for a political office.
“In one sense, I am running as a form of political protest. Everyone is telling us that the barriers to participating in the political process are so great that it’s a lost cause. I understand the people who feel alienated from and fatalistic about our political system, because I have had those thoughts too. I don’t think that needed change is impossible, but I protest the system of gridlock that has been imposed on our political system. At a minimum we need to protest and maybe even have some fun in the process,” he said.
Leichty has taught research methods, interpersonal communication and argumentation at U of L since 1991. Though he did not attend U of L himself, he has two daughters, both of whom have attended the university for multiple degrees.
In his initial campaign agenda, Leichty spoke out against topics such as “foreign wars and interventions,” high prices of prescription medication and “rent-seeking” in the patent process.
He also came out in favor of increased funding for scientific research, legislation that “treats all income as equal for tax purposes” and oversight of national security programs.
He said the statement is “only in a formative state at this point,” and that he is “doing some research along with other people to further develop policy positions.”
To read the full text of Leichty’s campaign agenda, click here.
Leichty said he is not concerned about competition from the other declared Democratic candidates, Ed Marksbury and Bennie J. Smith.
“My entrance into the race began with the belief that you have to be in the game to influence the game,” he said. “If I can influence the the ultimate policy decisions and platforms of other candidates in the race, that would count as a significant success in my mind.”
“I am realistic about the uncertainties that I face. I am a first-time candidate for political office … who lacks public recognition, deep political connections and a large personal fortune.”
Leichty specifically referenced his running against incumbent minority leader Mitch McConnell, who will be running for his sixth Senate term in 2014.
“Anyone who is grounded in reality recognizes that challenging Mitch McConnell is a daunting task,” he said. “McConnell is a very smart man and a very clever politician.”
Dr. Dewey Clayton, also a U of L professor and author of “The Presidential Campaign of Barack Obama: A Critical Analysis of a Racially Transcendent Strategy,” agreed that Leichty probably does not have a realistic shot at unseating McConnell, the longest-serving Senator in Kentucky history.
“First, (Leichty) will not be an incumbent and have all the advantages of incumbency …(McConnell) has a track record to run on and he has brought millions of federal dollars to Kentucky since he took office in 1985,” said Clayton. “Rand Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010 as part of the Tea Party wave that came to Congress. He has taken a stand on many important public policy issues and he has attempted to expand the outreach of his party to minorities. He has his sights on the presidential race in 2016.”
Clayton highlighted the disparity between the financial capabilities of both Leichty and McConnell. McConnell will come into the election with $11 million in campaign funding, along with early strike ads against potential opponents paid for by the Team Mitch campaign and independent PACs.
Clayton also identified some general roadblocks for any Kentucky Democrat in the 2014 race. He noted that the political climate in Kentucky outside of the major cities of Louisville and Lexington is strongly in support of Republicans in national politics, and reminded that the Democrats have yet to declare an official candidate, with the Nov. 4, 2014 election date swiftly approaching.
“Having said that, I do think that McConnell is more vulnerable in 2014 than he has been in some time,” said Clayton. “His approval ratings are somewhat low according to the last Bluegrass Poll … some Kentuckians see him as the chief obstructionist to President Obama’s agenda — and a part of the problem in Washington and not the solution. Moreover, Senator McConnell has been in office for almost three decades and some may feel it is time for a fresh face.”
Clayton had the following warning for the Democratic nominee, whether Leichty or someone else:
“Team Mitch will run a barrage of advertisements against the challenger, probably painting him or her as out-of-touch with the true values of Kentuckians. Unless the challenger has a huge campaign war chest to refute these allegations, they will do irreparable damage.”
Photo courtesy / Greg Leichty