BEREA — A Berea Community School science teacher has decided to throw his hat into the 2022 Election for the sixth district seat against incumbent Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY).
Chris Preece of Madison County is a Democrat who hopes to address several issues, including education funding, climate change, healthcare improvements, and properly representing constituents.
“Time is limited, but I hope to make some strong connections, and I hope the people I represent can be surrogates to get back to me for what they think and need,” Preece said.
Preece was born and raised in Martin County, where some of his family still resides and where he attended Morehead College. Preece majored in chemistry and minored in philosophy while attending Morehead. Following his graduation, Preece said he went further with his studies and received a master’s in education.
He bounced around to teach at several counties in Appalachia, before he arrived to teach science at Berea Community nearly seven years ago.
He believes his teaching background and native roots in Appalachia will help him obtain the sixth district seat.
“I have some friends in Montgomery County, which is nice,” he began. “Living in Martin County and other parts of Appalachia, I think that gives me a perspective that I don't think Andy Barr has because I grew up as a free and reduced lunch kid, in a holler an hour from the farthest Wal Mart.”
Preece believes many “rural folks” tend to feel left out and pandered to when election time comes around.
“I don’t want them to feel like that anymore,” he affirmed.
He said while Fayette County makes up nearly half of the district and securing votes are important there, “that isn’t all it is.”
“It’s every county, street, and holler,” he said.
One significant aspect he hopes to focus on during his campaign is more widely available resources for Kentuckians.
During the pandemic, both Preece and his wife volunteered with Berea Kids Eat to help give out food when the school could not provide daily lunches and meals.
“Seeing the number of people drive through that line shocked me,” he admitted. “I can see a number on a piece of paper — a percentage — but there is nothing like seeing it in real life and in your face.”
He said the sheer volume of people coming through the line struck him, and he believes a centralized place for people to get informed about their resources is a good start.
“The library has a really nice list,” he said. “But also as a representative, it is important to help people because when they reach out to you for something they need, you want to send them in the right direction.”
In addition to better access to resources, Preece shared that as a teacher, education at all levels is a big aspect of his focus during campaigning.
He said it was important that the government provide more money and resources to help schools systems overall. Having seen budgetary restraints in classrooms firsthand, he knows just how much help is needed.
In addition, he said teachers need to be paid more.
“In general, it is hard to find some subject matter teachers, so it is important to reach out and get more people to become teachers, and part of the reluctance to jump in is you basically have to work for free the first year of college,” Preece. “Restructuring that at the educational level will be important to draw teachers in.”
Then, student loans and college were an entirely separate issue to Preece, who said the state needs to pay more to subsidize the cost to help pay people more.
“Just 13% of state funding isn’t enough,” he said. “I think if someone wants to go to college, at a minimum, they should be able to work in the summer to pay tuition….Education is a huge bit.”
Another big aspect of Preece’s campaign is more affordable and accessible healthcare.
“We pay an enormous amount for healthcare and let the insurance companies dictate a lot of that,” he said. “As a country, we have to do better for people, and I think that medicare for all would be a better solution for all those ailments.”
Preece said his grandparents primarily raised him, and his grandfather was a deacon in their church. He said this showed him a lot about taking care of others and how important it is.
“It is really important that as a society we need to do our best to help people and what better way to do that than if you are sick and something is wrong, you don’t have to worry about paying for something, and you can get it fixed and go back to being a productive member of society.”
He said often, people put off seeking out medical attention simply because they can’t afford to do so, which only causes more serious illnesses long-term and can become a bigger restraint on the healthcare system.
While he hopes to address these issues, Preece said he is running for district six because of what happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“After witnessing that moment that happened, I was overwhelmed with all sorts of different emotions,” Preece said. “...I am just a regular person that is fed up. I am worried for the people and democracy as we saw a domestic terrorist attack, and I just feel like I have to step up and do more and try to run myself.”