Voters in Ohio’s Fourteenth Congressional District could send the state’s first openly gay representative to the US House this November, when Democrat Matt Kilboy will face off against anti-LGBTQ+ Republican incumbent Dave Joyce in this northeast corner of the state.
A native of Deerfield, a rural township in Portage County, Kilboy’s leap into national politics follows a decade of military service as a nurse in the navy, plus several years with the Department of Veterans Affairs and, later, the Department of Defense, where he worked on legislative affairs for the military healthcare system’s more than 9 million members. He says he launched his campaign out of frustration with the stagnancy in Congress.
“We have a body mostly of lawyers and rich businesspeople representing our country. I think it’s time to change that. I’m not naïve enough to think I could go down there and do that by myself, but we have got to start somewhere.”
In addition to being a veteran and a nurse, Kilboy says his rural, blue-collar roots make him a perfect candidate to represent OH-14 – but there are challenges. “If you drive through some of the rural parts of Northeast Ohio where I live, you will meet a lot of people who still aren’t comfortable with the LGBTQ+ community.”
The Buckeye Flame spoke with the candidate about his bid and why now is the time for the state to have its first out representative in Congress.
What inspired you to be in public service?
I come from a blue-collar community and family, and learned from a young age that the way the community survives and thrives is through helping each other. Growing up with single mom who worked two jobs to put food on the table for my brother and I, we depended a lot on my extended family and the community, and that inspired me to give back as I got older. Not only did I want to give back to my community here in Deerfield Township; I also wanted to serve the country. I gave ten years of service in uniform and a couple of years of federal service. My husband and I sat down and had a conversation around Thanksgiving, and we both decided that there’s no better time than now, so I decided to pull the trigger, and launched my campaign toward the end of December for Ohio’s Fourteenth.
What past experiences have best prepare you for this race?
After I retired from the Navy in 2019, I went to work for the federal government, first for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where my last project was actually distribution of the COVID vaccine, and then for the Department of Defense, specifically in legislative affairs for the military health system, which serves some 9 million people. But also, as a product of a rural blue-collar community, I have the right perspective to represent Ohio’s Fourteenth. I look at Congress and how it’s devolved over the last four years. It’s frustrating. We have a body mostly of lawyers and rich businessmen representing our country. I think it’s time to change that. I’m not naïve enough to think I could go down there and do that by myself, but we have to start somewhere.
Tell us a bit about your platform.
My top three priorities are healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
Making sure everybody has affordable, easy access to healthcare and addressing the workforce shortage within healthcare which the pandemic has exacerbated are major concerns for me.
Improving and increasing the number and affordability of educational programs, especially vocational programs and community college, but also 4-year colleges, is another priority.
We also need serious investment in infrastructure, which for me means more than repairing roads and building bridges; it’s ensuring rural communities like those in Ohio’s Fourteenth have access to affordable high-speed internet and cell phone service – it’s 2022 and I still can’t get a decent signal out where I live in Deerfield – as well as basic things like access to clean and safe drinking water and access to public transportation.
If elected, you will be the first out gay man to represent the state of Ohio in the US House. What would this mean to you?
We’ve made progress in the last 10-15 years. I served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; that’s been repealed. Marriage equality has been a huge win for us. But there are still a lot of challenges. If you drive through the rural parts of NE Ohio where I live you will meet a lot of people who still aren’t comfortable with the LGBTQ+ community, so this is huge for our community in building a voice and a platform to make sure we’re represented across the state and across the country.
The Fourteenth District’s current representative is far from being a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, having voted against the Equality Act and every other type of legislation that would protect that rights of the LGBTQ+ community at large. It’s time for a change. 🔥