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Op-Ed: Teacher Explains Why He's Right Choice for Democrats in 69th District

The following op-ed is written by Ryan Neaves, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 69th House District race. He faces attorney Col Owens in the May primary. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Adam Koenig of Erlanger, and the district includes parts of Kenton and Boone counties.

All across Kentucky, candidates are entering the final stretch of an embattled political race to determine who will be on the ballot for the general election in November. These candidates, however, aren’t facing off against members of the opposite party – they’re going toe to toe with members of their own party.

There is a very interesting design to the campaign process for a primary election. The time period between the filing deadline and the election itself is just a short 111 days. During this period, you have to establish your campaign and be ready for a long ride on the proverbial bus with many stops. Throughout this process, candidates need to distinguish themselves as a legitimate opponent to the incumbent or opposite party, but they also need to separate themselves from their primary opponent.

Often times, there is little separation between candidates which can lead to discontent in the party.

I find myself in a district that is holding its first Democratic primary since 1990 (the year I was born). I’ll be honest, after filing to run on December 18, I was surprised to find that I had a primary opponent the day before the filing deadline on January 29. So, while attempting to separate myself from my primary opponent – I think it’s important to stay factual, respectful, and civil.

My primary opponent is someone that is revered throughout the Democratic Party for his devotion and commitment to the party. In fact, he served as the chair of the Kenton County Democratic Party for eight years. In the brief interactions that I have had with him, I’m left with the impression that he is a standup gentleman and would serve well in the role of state representative. We agree on many different issues that are of importance to the 69th district and the entire commonwealth.

However, I need to be clear that he is not the right candidate for the 69th district.

At the time of filing his paperwork to run, my opponent posed for a celebratory photo with a caption that read, “Today, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine by filing for the Kentucky House of Representatives, District 69."

At the time of my filing, there was no photo-op, no publicity statement, and certainly no celebration. I’ve been clear about the fact that running for office is not my dream. My dream is to continue to serve my community by being the best teacher and public servant possible. The best way to do that currently is to ensure that Adam Koenig doesn’t go unopposed for a fifth election cycle, which brings me to my next point.

During my opponent’s eight years as chair of the Kenton County Democratic Party, the 69th district went unopposed for four elections. In those eight years, Adam Koenig was able to sponsor and co-sponsor so many detrimental pieces of legislation that had a direct negative impact on the people of the 69th district (specifically public education) – yet for eight years he was able to have a free seat because our party leaders were unable to find a candidate to challenge him.

As a teacher and a track coach – time is something that I’m constantly analyzing, studying, and utilizing. What I’ve come to see throughout this process is that we have run out of time to adhere to the status quo. We have run out of time to continue with outdated policies and elected officials making decisions for a general public that they’re so far removed from.

My opponent will be quick to point out my lack of experience in the political realm, which I’ll be quick to say that I agree. However, my lack of experience in politics is precisely what makes me the ideal candidate for the 69th district. In order for real change to occur in the General Assembly, we need an influx of new ideas and new methods to push our state forward. We need those that are not career politicians to take office and shake things up.

As the primary process winds down leading to the election on May 22, I urge all Kentucky citizens to understand who is running in the primary in your district. I encourage you to get to know who they are and what they stand for and really think about who would truly represent you in Frankfort.

Ryan Neaves is a Teacher in the Erlanger-Elsmere School District and is a candidate for KY State Representative in the 69th District.