Meet Thomas Massie, Kentucky's Next Rand Paul

Much like Rand Paul, Massie’s small-government instincts extend beyond keeping a tight grip on the checkbook.

Congressional Republican candidate Thomas Massie has a near-perfect resume. He earned two degrees from MIT, made a fortune with SensAble Technologies, Inc., and then returned to his hometown in Northern Kentucky, where he and his wife built a solar-powered house from locally harvested materials and are raising a brood of beautiful children. Now serving as the judge executive of Lewis County, Kentucky, Massie claims to have eliminated “enough wasteful government spending” in his first nine months in office “to pay his first three years salary as Judge Executive.”

Massie’s penny pinching has earned him the ire of most of his colleagues in the Lewis County government. And that’s what his supporters like about him. “He’s got the spine to stand up in the county,” says Ryan Hogan, the organizational muscle behind Massie’s run to replace Rep. Geoff Davis of Kentucky’s Fourth District. “The other elected officials or the magistrates, they completely don’t like him.”

Hogan worked on Rand Paul’s campaign for Senate, and later, in Sen. Paul’s Bowling Green office. He’s already recruited many of the grassroots activists behind Paul’s Senate run to Massie’s cause, including Matt Pannell, a patient of Paul’s who convinced the eye doctor to run for Senate. “I was on Rand’s campaign from the very beginning,” Hogan says, “so I kinda brought these people along with us in a way. And they know Tom.” Like Hogan, Pannell, whose involvement with Massie has been "more slacktavist," thinks Massie’s experience as a local reformer makes him a good Tea Party-style House candidate. “He's the real deal,” Pannell said.

Immediately after winning the election for judge executive in 2010 (a position similar to county manager), Massie began eliminating waste. “None of that necessarily included any layoffs or anything,” Hogan says. “It was just going through the phone bill for phone lines that weren’t connected anymore, electrical meters that weren’t hooked up.” Massie also cancelled a deal between Lewis County and a railroad company after learning that the county was paying to lease land that the railroad had sold nearly 20 years ago. “The county had just been paying this money to the railroad company,” Hogan says. “Thomas could never get a response out of them. So he didn’t pay the bill.” When the railroad called asking for rent, Thomas asked for the county’s money back.

Incidentally, voters in Lewis County elected Massie knowing he’d do exactly what he’s done. “Seven new brick government office buildings have been built or occupied in Vanceburg in [the last] 20 years, yet at least that many retail businesses have disappeared in the county,” Massie told the Lewis County Herald in 2009. “Farmers and other working people, as well as retirees on fixed incomes, now pay a larger percentage of their hard earned money to the local government, yet there are fewer local jobs available. If there ever were a textbook case that bigger government is not the answer, it would be Lewis County.”

Massie’s colleagues are less than pleased with his performance to date. “In one of the first fiscal court meetings, they basically told Thomas, ‘We don’t want you airing out our dirty laundry,’” Hogan says. “But guess what? That’s what voters elected him to do, was to come in and clean out the mess.” To that end, Massie blocked funding for new zoning proposals and flung mud in the eye of a regional development board by turning down a $400 million HUD grant for a housing project. According to Hogan, “the amount of the grant was actually a very, very small percentage of what the overall cost of the project would be.” According to Hogan, Lewis County under Massie has almost turned its deficit into a surplus. (Massie is so reviled for his penny pinching that he’s the first judge executive in recent memory to not have a seat on the development board.)

But Massie didn’t stop there. He also went after Lewis County’s treasurer for using county funds to have gravel spread on her driveway. When Massie got wind, he issued a stop order and reported the treasurer to the state auditor.

Much like Rand Paul and his father Ron, Massie’s small-government instincts extend far beyond keeping a tight grip on the checkbook. He’s also opposed to the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, the police state, the drug war, and military adventurism. Massie’s views on civil liberties put a lot of daylight between him and his most well-known competitor for the GOP nomination, state legislator Alecia Webb-Edgington. A former member of the Kentucky State Police and the Department of Homeland Security, Webb-Edgington also helped launch Kentucky’s DHS-funded Fusion Center and told the crowd at a 2010 Lincoln Dinner, “We don’t need any more socialists, communists, or libertarians in the Republican Party.”

“So she tries to peg him as a survivalist or a libertarian,” Hogan said, chuckling. “And the other candidate has been in government for 16 years. Well, a lot of other people know the two main candidates and have had to deal with them for a while, and a lot of them just necessarily don’t like them too well. Thomas is a breath of fresh air.” With the number of libertarian Republicans in the House approaching zero, Kentucky’s Fourth District isn't the only place in need of some fresh air. 

Mike Riggs is an associate editor at Reason magazine. You can follow him on Twitter

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Socialist Commie Libertarian||

    We got to free up the means of production, maaaannn...

  • "Small Government" is oxymoron||

    As is "Benevolent Rape."

    The ability of Fibertards to lie to themselves is tremendous, equivalent to the ability of religious fundamentalists to swallow piss and bullshit and call it Koolaid.

  • ||

    I don't give a fuck, Riggs.

  • Restoras||

    Nice work, Riggs. Is that a picture of you or of your subject matter? Regardless, that's how I imagined you'd look - if only to fit in with the rest of dorks on Reason's staff.

  • ||

    See, this is how you put your "fuck-you money" to good use.

  • Rusty Shackelford||

    Don't forget about Patrick Kelly! He was a huge Rand Paul supporter and is running for US Congress in Kentucky as well, in the 6th district. http://www.patrickkelly2012.com/

  • cabinets||

    I never knew my home state had such a libertarian streak in it. You'll never find that in Illinois.

  • ||

    We need Rand Paul's in all 50 states. Not just Kentucky.

  • Ted S.||

    We need Rand Paul's what in all 50 states?

  • Sandman||

    his huge macking lovely giant balls

  • Lucky||

    Must be nice to be good-looking. Makes life a lot easier.

  • Kelly LeBrock||

    Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

  • Fresnel lens ||

    Is that a picture of you or of your subject matter?

  • Lyle||

    How is non-intervention not about us either?

  • ||

    The article is totally wrong. The writer should have done some fact checking before writing this campaign piece at the direction of Ryan Hogan.

    Massie has saved money but you failed to mention the thousands of dollars in increased spending. He fired some employees and hired replacements at a greater salary than those he fired.

    He added the position of deputy judge and appointed a friend who works out of town three days a week.

    You’re right local officials are against Massie not for his penny pinching ways but his constant backhanded comments about the local people. Massie knows he has to win the congressional race as he now realizes he will lose the next election for judge in a landslide.

    He sold the people a bill of goods that he never intended to fill. He was only using the judge’s office as a stepping stone to run for the congressional office.

  • Someone who knows||

    As someone "in-the-know" on the back-story here, let's clarify that Massie had actually been talked into running for this office, and had decided against it until one certain person convinced him to do it. And if you think about it for a minute, you'll figure out who that one person was.

  • ||

    The surplus you write about is totally false as the county is nearly broke. The heat has not turned on in the courthouse all winter and the place looks like a dump because Massie will not pay for the janitors to clean it except for the expenses he gets reimbursed for from the state supreme court.

    He objected to the county spreading gravel on a local nonprofit organizations leased lot. Yes the treasurer for the county owns the lot but it is leased to the nonprofit. Massie also tried to fire the treasurer when he took office because he wanted to hand pick a treasurer. His heavy handed ,my way od the higway mentality did not work with the local officials.

    Massie is not what you think or what he has been trumped up to be in this article. Grasping at straws comes to mind.

  • Someone who knows||

    Did he or did he not cut waste by auditing the bills in the county?

    Do you really think that putting gravel on private property, whether leased to a non-profit, a drive-in theater, or a sex shop? Does the county have business putting gravel on private property ever? No!

    I only met Mr. Massie in the past year or so and I really like him. I think he will win this race and I think he'll serve KY very well.

    And I wonder if Mr. Conley has an axe to grind or ulterior motive. Everyone else I've met likes Thomas Massie a whole lot.

  • Matt||

    really another rand paul... call me underwhelmed

  • ||

    I see a lot of fluff in this article with out one ounce of facts to back up this fairy tale you have spun .. I am one who deals in the facts not the fairy tales. With as much dumbing down as the schools has done in the past 60 years my dog would be able to get a degree from M.I.T. sir your full of hype and nothing more just like the man your just wrote about !

  • ||

    Who do you think you are kidding?

    Massie only ran for Judge to get his name ID up and put himself in a favorable light wiht the tea party.

    He has been running for congress since he announced for judge. He does not care who he hurts or runs over the top of in the process. He will probably win not becuase he is the right person for the job but because the peoploe who know him want him out of his county and this is the easiest way to accomplish it.

    What has let his millions of dollars go to his head and forgot where he was raised and what values he should be holding. He really does need to go to Washington as he will fit in perfectly with the elite crowd.

  • ||

    Thank you Mr Massie for entering public service.

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