Daniel Solzman: First, congrats on the primary victory and thank you for joining the Kentucky Democrat for an interview today. How are things going in Barbourville?
Kenneth Stepp: It's pretty nice in Barbourville. It rained a little today, but we needed it.
DS: When did you decide to run for Congress this year and what factored into that?
KS: The plans came up gradually in December of last year and January 2006. Last time the Democratic Party did not field a candidate for the U.S. Congress for the Fifth District of Kentucky. I thought the Democratic Party should have a candidate, and at the time I filed, the lady at the Secretary of State's office told me that I was the only Democrat to file, and that was approx. January 25, 2006. I didn't want a bruising Democratic primary, but I wanted to be the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House for the Kentucky Fifth District. I would like to be a Congressman, and I am a Democrat.
DS: Will fundraising be a problem at all as you head down the stretch against Congressman Rogers? He's obviously a powerful congressman and I think money will play a large role in this race. Have you considered outreaching to the blogosphere (Kos, MyDD, Bluegrass Report)?
KS: Yes, I expect fundraising will be a problem, as it is in any political campaign. Money will play a role in the campaign, but money does not dictate the result. Sure, my Republican opponent has more money in his campaign fund than most people earn in a lifetime, and if the people automatically vote for whoever has the most paid advertising, then he will win. But think about how much more advertising you see for cigarettes than for vegetables; but most people get a lot more vegetables than cigarettes. Vegetables are good for you. Cigarettes kill you. It takes a lot of money and advertising to convince you to buy a pack of cigarettes and smoke them, because cigarettes are bad for you. It takes a lot of money and advertising to convince Kentucky voters to vote for Republicans Bush, Fletcher, and Hal Rogers because their politics of "no bid contracts", war in Iraq, and warrantless wiretaps are bad for Kentucky voters. On the other hand, the policies of Democrat Kenneth Stepp of requiring bidding on all Federal contracts, withdrawing the troops from Iraq, and requiring warrants for wiretaps, are good for the people of Kentucky, and, like buying vegetables, it should not take much advertising to convince the people of Kentucky to vote for Kenneth Stepp and those policies.
Yeah, I guess I'm on the blogsphere right now. I have participated in some blogs. I have missed the veterans' blog on KOS because I am usually traveling around the Fifth Kentucky District for the U.S. House on Sunday afternoons, when they have their group blogs.
DS: Do you think the state party is heading in the right direction in order to take back the state senate and keep control of the house?
KS: My Dad,who graduated from Berea College in Kentucky, once said, "You can't beat someone with nobody." It was true then, and is true now. Right now the policies advocated by President Bush are very unpopular, and our Republican governor is under indictment for misdemeanors--one of which has a minimum jail sentence of approx. 30 days plus removal from office. A lot of people have thought that the Republicans are bad, but the Democrats are worse. The Republicans have won in the recent elections, because the people have considered them to be "the lesser of the two evils". Right now, Chandler could beat Fletcher, and Kerry or Gore could beat Bush. I doubt the Republicans will re-nominate Fletcher, and Bush cannot run again because of term limits. We can't re-fight last year's campaigns, we have to keep moving forward, and be the party of new ideas. I see the Democratic Party taking back the State Senate and keeping control of the State House of Representatives, but it will take a lot of work and a lot of campaigning. I see the Democrats taking back the U.S. House of Representatives, but people tend to re-elect incumbents, and the Republicans have a majority of the incumbents.
DS: What about your thoughts on the image of the national party and how it is perceived in the commonwealth of Kentucky?
KS: Many Kentuckians perceive the national Democratic Party is a big city party and a Northeastern Party. There is a danger that the Democratic Party will lose its influence in the South and become a regional party. Right now Kentucky has five Republican U.S. Representatives and two Republican U.S. Senators, and only one Democratic U.S. Representative. In the last two Presidential elections, the Democratic candidate was not able to carry a single Southern state. With the party primary system, the Democrats of Kentucky choose the direction of the Kentucky Democratic Party. I like the national Democratic Party, but many of the solutions that have worked in New York City and San Francisco might not be best for Pineville and McKee. We have no large cities in the Kentucky Fifth District, and the Democratic Party needs to have good contact with rural people in order to continue to win elections in Kentucky.
DS: With all the mess going on in Washington, would you say that it's possible that Democrats could take back Congress and the Senate?
KS: I expect the Democrats to take back the U.S. House of Representatives. We just need sixteen more seats to do that. We don't have a U.S. Senate seat contested in Kentucky this year, and I haven't followed the other states' Senate races that much; I don't expect the U.S. Senate to change hands.
DS: There's a lot of talk about the governor's race. Do you think that it is it too early to start focusing on 2007 or should we be focusing on midterm elections first?
KS: We should focus on midterm elections first. Chandler, Stumbo, and Crit Luellan have been mentioned as Democratic governor candidates, but it is too early to speculate on that yet. The biggest question is whether Fletcher will be in the race; that would affect the Democratic nomination.
DS: I know 2008 is a few years away but are any potential candidates that you see having a good chance to reach the White House?
KS: Usually an obscure governor from a Southern state is a sure winner for the Democrats, like Arkansas Governor Clinton and Georgia Governor Carter. Whether the Virginia governor or former governor can pull it off and get to the White House is an interesting question. Of course, standard Democrats including John Kerry, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards have good chance to make it to the White House against a Bush, a Cheney, or a McCain.
DS: Jon Stewart or Bill O'Reilly?
KS: I'm not that familiar with them. Usually the Presidential contest is more like a demolition derby. You have sixteen Democrats in the New Hampshire primary, and two of them get eliminated there. In the next round of primaries a couple more of them crash. Normally one candidate has a majority of the delegate votes heading into the convention. Sometimes the primaries are unable to produce one candidate with a majority of the delegates.
DS: Any particular legislation in that you would like to see introduced or passed once you set foot in DC as a Congressman?
KS: I plan to introduce legislation calling for the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq by January 8, 2007. Also, I plan to introduce legislation putting an end to warrantless wiretaps. I will not vote to fund agencies that persist in warrantless wiretaps of U.S. citizens.
DS: What three issues in your opinion should be priorities as you run for Congress?
KS: Education funding is a top issue. The way to prosperity is through education. The Republican majority has voted to cut Federal educational spending by approx. twenty six per cent in a future budget. I would try to restore educational spending to the previous level, and not cut it.
Military occupation of Iraq is a top issue. There has been no declaration of war, but we have troops militarily occupying Iraq and dying each week. We should not go to war without a declaration of war. If the President can't muster the votes for a declaration of war, we should not go to war. We should bring American troops home from Iraq, and from most of the nations where they are stationed.
Warrantless wiretapping is another top issue. Search warrants are easily obtained. Concerning warrants for wiretaps of international phone calls, of 19,000 applications, only four were denied. That is not too heavy a burden on the Federal government for them to get warrants in order to tap American citizens' phone conversations. I would vote to put an end to warrantless wiretapping.
DS: Any last things you want to say to the readers of The Kentucky Democrat?
KS: Well, yes. Most people in Kentucky, and in the Fifth Kentucky U.S. House District are Democrats. Democrats outnumber Republicans almost three to two in Pike County and Floyd County. Over 50,000 Fifth District Democrats voted in the recent primary, choosing the Fifth District Democratic candidate for the U.S. House. If we Democrats stick together, and vote for our party's nominee for the U.S. House, we should have a Democrat representing the Kentucky Fifth District in the United States House of Representatives beginning in January 2007. Democrat Carl Perkins once represented the mountain people of the Fifth Kentucky District of the U.S. House area. We can have another Democrat representing us, and we can be a part of the new emerging Democratic majority in the United States House of Representatives. I'm reminding the people of Eastern Kentucky, of the Kentucky Fifth District, to vote Democratic, and to elect Kenneth Stepp, a Democrat, as our Congressman this November.
DS: Thanks again for joining the Kentucky Democrat for this interview and keep fighting the good fight. Best of luck in November.
KS: Thank you, Daniel. I'll need all the help I can get, and your readers can learn more about me and my Democratic campaign at http://www.steppforcongress.blogspot.com and Good Night.