Kentucky's Gay Hope
BY Michelle Garcia
May 19 2010 6:45 PM ET
At just 24 years old and with a meager $150 in campaign finances, earlier this week, Matthew Vanderpool pulled off the unthinkable, beating an Air Force veteran and a lawyer to win the Democratic primary for the 45th district of Kentucky's house of
representatives. Now, as the openly gay candidate gears up to face one of the state's most notoriously antigay politicians, Vanderpool talks to The Advocate about what made him run, what he expects from campaign season, and why he's sick of hearing politicians talk.
The Advocate: Why did you decide to run against incumbent Rep. Stan Lee?
Matthew Vanderpool: I got into it originally because I just couldn't stand Stan Lee. But that eventually went away, and I started thinking about how tired I was of hearing politicians talk. We need people in there that are actually going to do stuff, and work with the people. I've said throughout the entire campaign thus far — Stan's been in office since 2001, and I've always believed that if you stay in office that long, you start to lose focus on why you got in there, and it just becomes a job. You lose that passion, and that drive that got you in there in the first place. They start to think, Oh, I'll just keep running, but you can't do that to people. So I believe that even though I am as young as I am, my knowledge and enthusiasm can get the things done that need to be done. I don't like the term "politician." I don't consider myself one. I keep saying "public servant."
Have you always been interested in politics?
Honestly, I know this sounds corny, but I remember telling my mom, as far back as I can remember, "Mom, I want to go into politics. I want to help people." I think that's why I ran at 24. I guess I just waited until I was legally old enough to run, to achieve this dream of mine.
Despite facing an Air Force veteran and an attorney, you won this
primary with minimal advertising. How were you able to win over your
opponents with such a strategy?
I believed that you have to speak to everybody. I didn't even care if I
was talking to someone who didn't live in my district. I spoke to
everybody. Even the homeless down in Lexington. I guess that's how my
name got out there. I was shocked. I was sitting down there at City
Hall, because I wanted to be hands-on in my first campaign. I was
obviously really excited, and I was sitting there thinking, "There's no
way I'm going to win this. I've only raised $150, and my opponents have
raised $6000, and now that I look back, it's really just speaking to the
people. I never turned down an event I was invited to, I felt honored
to be invited to those events. I figured if someone wants to hear me
speak, I couldn't turn it down. I think it was just staying true to
myself, and speaking to everybody across the country. I wanted to hear
people's stories, and what was bothering them. I think they got kinda
shocked when they would ask me, "What are you going to do for me?"
because I would reply to them with, "Well, what do you want me to do?"