Mr. Bolin Goes to Washington?

wesley-bolin-350Wesley Bolin, a 25-year-old college student from Murray, Kentucky, knows it usually takes a ton of money, name recognition and some political experience to win a seat in congress.

The candidate confesses he lacks all three.

“People say we need a fresh face in Washington,” said Bolin, a Democrat who wants to unseat 10-term incumbent Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield in November. “Well, nobody’s face is fresher than mine.”

Bolin’s mug is also bearded. He considered shaving his whiskers for the campaign but decided against it “because it is better to look 25 than twelve. It’s not presidential like Lincoln’s, but I think it’s congressional.”

Bolin, a senior at hometown Murray State University, doesn’t duck the liberal label, though he’s from deep western Kentucky, part of the Bluegrass State’s deeply Republican Red First Congressional District.

He said he isn’t fazed by the fact that the district delivered more than 66 percent of its vote to Republican Mitt Romney over President Obama in 2012. Nor is he daunted because Whitfield piled up nearly 70 percent of district ballots against Charles Hatchett, another little known and underfunded Democrat, and a conservative, to boot.

“Before Ed Whitfield, the district was Democratic,” said candidate Bolin, a Murray High School graduate who attended Yale University before coming home to Murray State. “Our roots are Democratic and our future will be too.”

So far, Bolin has no opposition in the May 20 Democratic primary. The filing deadline for primary candidates of both parties is January 28. To date, Whitfield is without a GOP primary foe.

“In 20 years, I’ve learned to read and write, tie my shoes, ride a bicycle and play two instruments – banjo poorly, and saxophone well,” Bolin said. “A lot has changed for the better in my life, but the district hasn’t changed for the better since Newt Gingrich helped elect Ed Whitfield in 1994.”

Even so, Bolin admitted that he and his dad, Murray State history professor and author, Dr. Duane Bolin, know the odds heavily favor Whitfield, whose bailiwick sprawls across western and south-central Kentucky.

In any event, Bolin will now have to juggle a political campaign, a job and schoolwork. He is on the staff at Murray State’s Pogue Special Collections Library.

Bolin said he understands all too well that Whitfield enjoys an almost bottomless campaign war chest, much of it filled by well-heeled contributors, the candidate added.

“But I won’t be jetting off to a posh ski resort in Vail, Colorado, to hobnob with lobbyists and millionaire corporate donors like Congressman Whitfield did earlier this month,” Bolin said.

Citing a New York Times article, Bolin said the shindig was held in the in the penthouse suite at the Four Seasons. “The hotel has a candlelit rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Vail Mountain, according to The Times,” Bolin added.

“The paper said the penthouse cost $8.75 million. I make $8.92 an hour, so I won’t be dropping by the hotel any time soon.”

Bolin’s platform leans unabashedly liberal. He’s for increasing Social Security benefits and upping the minimum wage. He’s for extending unemployment benefits to the approximately 1.4 million Americans whose eligibility ended December 28.

To further fight joblessness, Bolin, a fan of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wants New Deal-style public works programs.

Bolin, too, said he is optimistic about the future of the Affordable Care Act nationwide and in his home state “because over 160,000 Kentuckians have already received health insurance through the ACA.”

In addition, Bolin said he backs labor unions. “I am against the so-called right to work laws and am in favor of prevailing wage laws.”

He is also for the Employee Free Choice Act and for collective bargaining rights for public employees. Bolin said his supports fair trade but not pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A devout Southern Baptist, Bolin said he supports “equal rights for all Kentuckians.” He, his dad, sister Cammie Jo, and mom, Evelyn, are active in Murray First Baptist Church.

Bolin added that his campaign got a boost from The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal group which invited him to Washington for a candidate workshop January 13-14. He paid his own way.

“The training renewed my focus and commitment for running for congress and let me meet and become part of a community of candidates who care for the progressive issues. Candidates from all over the country came.”

Bolin can be reached by phone at (270) 227-8681. His email address is wesley.bolin@gmail.com.

Berry Craig

Published by the LA Progressive on January 23, 2014
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.