FRANKFORT — A Tea Party darling with close ties to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul will run for Congress in Kentucky.
Republican Thomas Massie of Vanceburg told The Associated Press this week that he will seek to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis in the 4th District of northeastern Kentucky. One of Paul's top aides, Ryan Hogan of Bowling Green, will be Massie's campaign manager.
Massie, 40, an engineer and businessman in his second year as Lewis County judge-executive, joins a growing Republican field in the race.
State Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington of Fort Wright and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore of Pleasant Valley jumped in within days of Davis' December announcement that he wouldn't be seeking re-election. Davis has represented the district that stretches from the Louisville eastern suburbs to the West Virginia border since 2005.
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Long-shot candidate Brian Oerther, a teacher from Oldham County, has said he also intends to run.
On Wednesday, Northern Kentucky Republican Katie Stine, second in command in the Kentucky Senate, said she has decided not to seek Davis' seat, deciding to remain in the Senate to help deal with Kentucky's dire financial outlook for the next two years.
Massie said he expects he'll need more than $500,000 to win the race. Both he and Webb-Edgington said they already have pledges from potential donors exceeding $100,000. Webb-Edgington hired Davis' press secretary to manage her campaign, signaling to voters that she may have an alliance with the incumbent.
Massie has bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He invented a human-computer interface that was the centerpiece of a company he founded that made him wealthy. His neighbors in Lewis County recruited him to run for judge-executive, the top administrative job in Kentucky counties, two years ago, a position he won easily.
Many of those same people called on him again when Davis, also a businessman before entering Congress, announced his retirement.
"I will acknowledge that I'm an unlikely candidate, coming from the private sector," Massie said. "But I'm concerned about the debt, the size of our government and the bailouts, and that has motivated me to run for this office."
Hogan, who worked for Paul as a campaign aide and later as a field staffer, said he opted to join the Massie campaign because of his concern for the direction the country is heading.
Moore campaign manager Jonathan Duke said his candidate will promote his record in the race.
"Judge Moore looks forward to discussing his conservative record as Boone County Judge-Executive, one in which he's cut taxes and seen extensive job growth," said Duke.
A political outsider, Massie said he expects criticism from his opponents about his lack of government experience.
"People may say that I'm not experienced in government," Massie said, "but I would ask them 'how experienced were our founding fathers in government?' They were farmers. They were inventors. They were involved in commerce, and they came together and they drafted the best document in the history of civilization, and none of them were career politicians. And what we have now is career politicians who don't respect that document, which is chock-full of common sense."