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 on Tuesday that he will seek to replace retiring U.S. Sen. 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, is the third Republican to enter 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.
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 Congess, 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.
"We need more limited government conservatives like Thomas to help chart a new course to keep us off the rocky shoals of fiscal irresponsibility," Hogan said. "Thomas presents a fresh face with a proven track record of innovation and problem solving that will bring a much needed injection of common sense to an out of touch government."
The Webb-Edgington and Moore campaigns welcomed Massie into the race.
"We Republicans believe in competition," Webb-Edgington said in a statement. "It only makes us better. ...Our goal through this process should be to hold a primary that engages and educates voters about the candidates and the issues so that after May we will have a thoughtful, conservative Republican nominee who can win the general election in November."
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 Moore campaign manager Jonathan Duke. "And he looks forward to comparing that record to the records of our primary opponents and letting the records decide who is the best candidate to carry the conservative mantel for the good people of the 4th Congressional District."
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 commonsense."