This fall Kenneth Stepp hopes to appear on the ballot running for Congress in Kentucky’s Fifth District. If he wins the upcoming Democratic primary on May 22, Stepp will face off against Republican incumbent Hal Rogers (R-Somerset).
Kenneth Stepp’s Biography
Stepp’s family has a long history in Eastern Kentucky. His father, Professor James M. Stepp, moved to Kentucky as a teenager to attend Berea College, from which he was chosen to attend the Ph.D. in Economics program at the University of Virginia. After he got his Ph.D. at Virginia, Stepp’s father migrated to Clemson and married Vivian Pittman.
They had four sons:
- Jim, Jr. who, after ten years as an Air Force Officer, taught high school at Union, South Carolina;
- John, who saved silver dollar coins as a child and grew up to be the banker of the family;
- Ben, a Federal Assistant Public Defender in South Carolina;
- and Kenneth, a lawyer.
All four graduated from Clemson University.
During the Vietnam War, Kenneth Stepp’s plans to attend law school at the University of Virginia, where he’d been accepted, were cut short when he volunteered for the Navy. While in the Navy, Stepp served on the USS Blakely, as well as at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range in Puerto Rico. There, he supervised ship and submarine gunfire support exercises, torpedo shooting exercises, and anti-submarine rocket tests. After leaving that assignment, Stepp attended United States Naval Postgraduate School and received a masters degree in Management.
Stepp entered the University of Georgia Law School in 1973. After graduating in 1976, he worked as an advisor to prisoners at the Georgia Diagnostic Center, then as an associate for a lawyer who was also a State Senator. Stepp would spend the next 23 years in a law practice centered in Inverness, Florida, about seventy miles north of Tampa.
After Stepp’s first wife, Ann, was killed by a drunk driver, in 1988 Stepp met Wilma, who was from Clay County, Kentucky. According to Stepp, “People say, ‘If you marry a Clay County girl, you’ve got to move to Clay County.'” In 2002, Kenneth and Wilma, with their two sons, moved to Kentucky. He’s been practicing law there ever since.
We asked Stepp a few questions about his interest in politics, his latest run for office, and more.
Kenneth Stepp’s Political Background
Do you have a background in politics? If so, what is it?
“In approximately 1984 I began to get involved in politics as a Democratic county committeeman for the precinct where I lived, attending county-wide precinct committeeman meetings. In 1986, as a Democrat, I conducted a Democratic primary campaign for the Congressional seat then held by Democrat “Buddy” McKay in central Florida. The Democrats re-nominated and re-elected the incumbent.
“After the two Republican candidates in that previous campaign had said that I sounded more like them—more like a Republican than a Democrat—I left the Democratic Party and ran as a Republican in the Congressional Primary. That effort was unsuccessful for me, but that race resulted in Democrat “Buddy” McKay being replaced by Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns, who was in Congress for the next twenty years.
“My last political race in Florida was a three-way Republican primary for State Commissioner of Education between former governor Claude Kirk, an educator, and myself. The former governor came in first in the primary, I came in second, and the educator came in third; but the former governor was beaten in November by the incumbent Democrat.
“After staying out of politics, I moved to Kentucky and got involved in politics again. In most of the recent election years, I have run for Congress. I have won most of the Fifth District Democratic primaries, but have never been able to best Hal Rogers in a general election.”
What made you decide to run this year?
“I’m dissatisfied about the direction of the country. It seems ordinary people are the ‘silent majority’ more so now than in the sixties. We are at constant war since 1991, and we should be bringing most of our troops home.
“We should improve education in the United States. Education is the key to prosperity, yet the present Congress seems to think that we should cut the public education budget.
“The Constitution says ‘Congress shall declare war.’ The last few Presidents have usurped Congressional authority as these Presidents have sent American troops into various countries all over the world, to no apparent advantage of the United States.
“We should have a more traditional foreign policy, and a more progressive educational policy.
“America should to work toward the advantage of ordinary folks.”
Kenneth Stepp’s Main Issues
What would you say are your biggest issues as a candidate?
“My biggest issues as a candidate are my belief that we need to bring the runaway federal deficit under control, that we should stand firm against discrimination against racial minorities, that we should stand firm against discrimination against women, that we should keep a strong military, and that we should steer clear of foreign wars in which America has no interest and where there is no direct threat against the United States.”
What do you stand against?
“I’m against Communism and other brands of totalitarianism, racism, sexual discrimination, and having a second-place military.”
What are you most passionate about?
“What I’m most passionate about is the survival of America. We should maintain a strong enough military to survive. If Russia objects, we should follow economic policy concerning Russia that will draw her people out of Russia, and draw her capital out of Russia into investments overseas. We have to do what is in America’s best interests.”
What are your thoughts on the legislative session just ended?
“Congress has put the brakes on many of the Republican changes in the role of government, and held the line against the Republican effort to abolish the Affordable Care Act. I notice that insurance rates have improved regarding deductibles so that our health insurance policy has a five thousand dollar deductible, rather then the ten thousand dollar deductible of a few years ago.”
If you could change one thing in Kentucky, what would it be?
“I would shift more economic resources into education. Education, whether at the kindergarten, primary school, middle school, high school, undergraduate, or postgraduate levels, is your biggest single source of raising future individual income and ordinary people’s standards of living. The three main remedies to poverty in Kentucky are Education, Education, and Education.”
Why should Kentuckians vote for you, Kenneth Stepp?
“I am the candidate most in favor of what’s best for the ordinary people of Kentucky. We need better schools–which pay dividends to the general public for decades into the future.”