FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Democrat Josh Hicks, a Marine veteran and former police officer who lost faith in President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, on Thursday launched his campaign for the Kentucky congressional seat held by Republican Andy Barr.
Hicks, a Lexington attorney, was a longtime Republican who switched parties in 2016, citing his disenchantment with GOP policies that he said favor corporations and the wealthy. He ran for the legislature last year, losing a hard-fought race to veteran Republican state Rep. Stan Lee.
Now Hicks hopes to unseat Barr, the fourth-term congressman in the state’s 6th District, which covers portions of central and east-central Kentucky. Barr was a target of national Democrats last year but held off a strong challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath.
McGrath opted to join the race to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next year, creating an opportunity for other Democrats to vie for the House seat that had been a swing district until recently. Hicks is the first Democrat to launch a campaign for the seat in next year’s primary.
Hicks, 40, sees his rural roots and blue-collar background as an asset.
He grew up on a Fleming County farm, working in tobacco and hay fields, and spent a year as an ironworker and rigger after dropping out during his second year at Georgetown College.
“Not enough members of Congress have worked with their hands,” he said in an interview.
He spent four years of active service in the Marine Corps, reaching the rank of sergeant. Hicks spent five years as a police officer in Maysville. He juggled police and school work, earning his bachelor’s degree at Morehead State University. He received his law degree at the University of Kentucky in 2011 and eventually started his own law practice.
“I think what the majority of not just Kentuckians but Americans are craving is representation that is like them, that has grown up like them, that has those shared life experiences with them,” Hicks said.
Vowing not to accept corporate PAC contributions, Hicks criticized the influence of corporate money in politics, saying it means “policy outcomes are now purchased by the highest bidder.”
He said he’d support a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United decision that paved the way for more money and less transparency in politics.
Hicks mentioned health care and immigration reform as priorities if elected to Congress, and he was especially critical of the Trump administration’s treatment of migrant children.
“People should not be separated from their children, their children locked in cages in the United States of America,” he said.
The Trump factor still looms large in the 6th District. Last year, Barr got a big boost from the president, who visited Madison County a few weeks before the election. Barr ended up with a strong showing there, which helped put him over the top in fending off McGrath.
Hicks said he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
“I was never going to vote for the billionaire guy who was a reality TV guy,” he said. “That was never anybody who spoke to me as being out for the common man or woman.”