Running against Ryan Quarles, the Republican incumbent, is Democratic candidate Robert Haley Conway, who stated he is promoting a grassroots campaign and does not accept corporate donations.
“I got into this because I care about family farms in Kentucky,” Conway said. “I can promise that there are problems in Kentucky agriculture, and I got into it to force the discussion. If we wait, it will be too late.
He says he has an interesting farming history, and as he’s been out on the campaign trail, it has resonated with local farmers.
An eighth generation Kentucky farmer, Conway has a family farm in Scott County, where he lives with his wife and four sons. The youngest son chose to be a farmer, making him the ninth generation farmer. His wife’s family also has a farm that dates back to 1870, which he helps run as well.
With an extensive agriculture background, he is also a retired manager for a company that made him in charge of 2,000 employees. With his farming background and management skills, he believes this makes him a good candidate.
“I want to help the Kentucky people, and making their agriculture successful,” he said. “I am not into politics. I am not a politician and I don’t aspire to be.
He said “times are tough” for farmers.
“There are 75,000 farms in Kentucky, with 57% generating revenue, not profit,” he said.
Unlike Quarles, Conway thinks that the hemp industry is in a “total state of disrepair with a lot of problems in the program.”
“At the end of the day, (KDA) are establishing a narrative in which a lot of people are going to lose out on,” he said. “Four thousand to $6,000 to have an acre of hemp with no guarantee you are going to have anyone to buy it. There is great trepidation in the state of Kentucky.”
He said while Kentucky does have a tremendous cattle program -- being the second biggest producer on the east of the Mississippi River -- the cattle have to be sent off to other western states for processing, which is not cost efficient. Instead, he proposed to look at western Kentucky for processing centers.
If elected, Conway’s first goal, unequivocally, is to introduce legalization of medical marijuana.
“Why would you not want to help someone with pain or medical issues,” he asked. “Regardless of party, we care about each other, I just don’t understand.”
Since he has been on the campaign trail, Conway says he has put 76,000 miles on his car visiting 106 of 120 counties -- some more than once -- listening and talking to people from places as far as Pike and Fulton counties, and has not had one person tell him they disagree on his opinion of medical marijuana.
In March, the bill to introduce medical marijuana was thrown out 17 to one, with “Republicans refusing to bring it to the floor.”
“It shouldn’t be political, this is a moral issue,” he said. “...I am running for the right reasons, and I have an extreme moral compass, I am sick of division and politics. You have to have passion to be a farmer.”