You might have heard that Kevin Blacker – a farmer, landscaper, and general thorn in the side of Gov. Ned Lamont – is running for Congress on the Green Party ticket to unseat incumbent Democrat Joe Courtney, and as an alternative to his Republican challenger, Mike France.
Blacker — who asked for an early morning interview with CT Examiner so that he could still go out after and hay a field — is no doubt best known for a years-long fight against the Connecticut Port Authority and its efforts to redevelop State Pier in New London into an assembly hub for offshore wind.
Blacker also uncovered significant wrongdoing, derailing the once promising political career of former Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, tarnishing the reputation of current Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates, and sparking at least two FBI investigations.
In any number of emails (I count 2,124 in my inbox since March 2019) Blacker poked and prodded a smug coterie of press, pols and company officials to take seriously his claims of over-the-top spending, and self-dealing. His scattershot texts are variously funny, kind-hearted, informative, conspiracy-minded, defamatory, and profane.
As far as I know, Blacker was the first person to raise concerns about Kosta Diamantis, who would emerge at the center of a scandal that has rocked the Lamont administration.
None of this has won him love in Hartford, which responded on one occasion to a bit of mischief – pink paint on a soon-to-be retired sign — with felony charges, an unseemly and disproportionate use of force that frankly gives lie to the cultivated image up top of tie dye and dancing bears.
Blacker is also a peculiar choice for the Green Party, which needs at least one percent of the vote to retain its ballot line. No one in Connecticut has done more to frustrate plans for the state’s largest green energy project, than Blacker.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CTEx: You’re not quite the traditional candidate. Tell me about your family and what jobs you’ve done.
KB: I was born in New London at the hospital, but when I was a few days old I came back to Noank, grew up my whole life in Noank, a section of Groton. My mother was a teacher for 37 years, pre-school and special ed. My dad had a landscaping business, a small store, rented out a couple of houses.
So, you know, I had a good childhood. I grew up working, when I was old enough, for the landscaping company. Went to college. Got a degree in soil science. Came back and went to work with my dad, which I still do – the landscaping company.
Also, after college I started farming in a small way, and grew a farming business, you know, mostly cutting hay. For 10 years I raised beef cattle, but currently I’m just cutting hay.
CTEx: How did your involvement in politics start out? Was it the State Pier, or was there some longer involvement?
KB: You know, my dad used to bring me to zoning meetings. The Noank district has its own government inside of the Town of Groton. There was always active participation by a lot of people. And, you know, from a young age I would go to those meetings because I knew how important they were.
What got me into state-level was in 2017, I got this idea to make a market for rocks and boulders which are a byproduct of cropland clearing. They’re the biggest impediment to successful farming. They break your equipment. It’s the reason you can’t have big efficient fields.
So… you’ve got a problem. You want to solve the problem. I like using one problem to solve another problem. We have this other problem, sea-level rise, and you could use the rocks to prepare for sea-level rise. So, I started working on a project to make a market for them, and that kind of led into everything at State Pier.
CTEx: So how does Kevin in 2017… how does your knowledge of state politics and how things work differ after what you’ve learned over the last four or five years?
KB: I learned really well that politics… that government serves the politically connected and the special interests more than it serves the common good or the common person – that’s what I’ve taken away in the state of Connecticut, anyway.
CTEx: In a nutshell, if you had to say what’s wrong with what’s happening at State Pier?
KB: That it wasn’t honest. That it wasn’t fair. That it goes against common sense and practical judgement.
CTEx: So, what’s your platform?
KB: So, actually my top priority is honest, commonsense government that serves people and not the politically connected.
To challenge the two-party system.
Simple, innovative, achievable, cost-effective measures to combat climate change.
To remind people that viable, well-staffed local, independent newspapers are vital to the proper function of the American system.
CTEx: So, as the Green Party candidate… probably no one has done more to put a stick in the spokes of what would be the highest profile renewable energy project in Connecticut. How does the Green Party, how does Kevin Blacker – who believes in climate change and is interested in renewable energy reconcile that? Do you believe that there is a successful model for wind energy off the coast of New England?
KB: What I’ll say is that the Green Party, like myself, cares about the truth more than appearances. I’m not against renewable energy. It just needs to be honest. It has to be honest, and it has to make practical sense.
Do I believe that offshore wind could be viable? Yeah, anything’s possible. Right now, I see way too many practical problems.
If things aren’t being done honestly, you’re not going to get a good outcome. That’s just a principle I believe in. If it’s not honest it’s not going to yield a good result.
Another principle I believe in is that cost… money… is a really good indicator of whether good judgement is being used. If something is two times as expensive as other forms of energy generation, like offshore wind, it’s an indication of a problem.
CTEx: So, do you think you are running for these issues, or are you running against Joe Courtney, the incumbent, or Mike France?
KB: I don’t know very much about Mike France. He doesn’t seem to be running a very active campaign. Maybe he is, but I don’t see it.
Joe Courtney is, plain and simple, a great person. He’s hardworking. He’s very dedicated. He’s very partisan. He did nothing to stop the problems at State Pier. So, yeah, I’m going to challenge him. But I also think, take the governor’s race four years ago. You had a cookie-cutter Republican, and you know you had a Lamont, a cookie cutter Democrat. Then Griebel came in, and Monty Frank, and they challenged the two candidates. They were a good addition to the race… so I could do the same.
CTEx: Moving away from State Pier. One of the big issues raised by Joe Courtney and Mike France is the submarine base… the role of advocating for the largest industry in southeastern Connecticut except maybe for gambling. As a Green Party candidate, as Kevin Blacker, where do you stand on that?
KB: Well, I think Joe Courtney does a very good job advocating for Electric Boat, considering General Dynamic, I believe, his largest donor. So, you know, he does real good for them. Is he doing his best for the state or the taxpayers? I don’t know. Do we need all these submarines? I don’t know. But $3 billion apiece… you know, how is that money being spent? I’m not afraid to ask that question. I think Joe Courtney probably is. You know there are a lot of job associated with the base and EB, but there are a tremendous number of other industries in the 2nd District.
I think the Democrats are constrained by what their party thinks. The Republicans are constrained by what their party thinks. Both candidates are constrained by their donors.
I’m not a member of the Green Party. I don’t take any donations. I’m unconstrained. So, I can ask questions.
CTEx: Where do you fit on the political spectrum? You’re on the Green Party line. You’re not a member of the party. Are you on the left? Are you on the right? A little of both? Do you believe in big government? Small government? More taxes? Less taxes?
KB: Fiscally conservative… socially, you know, let people do what they want to do.
Do I believe in big government? No, I don’t. I believe in individuals and, more, community groups. You know, I think government has important roles, but largely I don’t like or trust a lot of different governments.
CTEx: So, what have we not talked about? What should we be talking about?
KB: Well, let’s see… So… guns, right? People want to talk about guns. They want to talk about issues like abortion.
CTEx: So where do you stand on guns? Where do you stand on abortion?
KB: On abortion, I’m Pro-Choice – always noting that you’re talking about human life, noting that every pregnancy is different and unique.
And on guns? That’s a big Connecticut issue. I think when people talk about guns, what they’re really talking about is, “how do we stop mass shootings… gun violence, domestic violence, suicide?” I think the issue is those things, but the discussion is on guns.
I think the two sides are really at odds over the guns. The want to solve the problem, but they’re in this deadlock over guns. And when you talk about taking away people’s guns, it’s like trying to take a bone away from a dog.
So, what I’d be interested in – with every issue – is what’s the low-hanging fruit? What are the avocados on the ground? What could we agree on and make an improvement on? You know, putting money toward safer gun storage. Definitely, if you’ve done certain crimes or if you’ve had mental health problems, gun ownership is probably not a good thing.
CTEx: Most people who have done any farming for a living have grown up around guns… firearms. So, did you grow up around them?
KB: As a kid, I wanted to get a BB gun. Before I was allowed to get a BB gun, I had to take a gun safety course. You know, that took us to the Sportsman’s Club – which we weren’t members of — but they had a gun safety course. So, before we could get a BB gun we had to do that… but you know, not an awful bunch, but with shotguns occasionally… you know, own a couple of guns, but not like a huge gun enthusiast.
Some people are really into them. I kind of say it’s a tool, like a shovel. With farming they are just a tool, but a dangerous tool that has to be respected and treated with care.
CTEx: So, are there issues on the federal level, whether it’s inflation or healthcare, that you might approach differently if you were in Congress… that is a little bit different than what Mike France or Joe Courtney brings?
KB: One of the things that I would bring is my youth, what’s left of my youth. They’re much older, and young people, just plain and simple, see and approach the world differently.
There’s a line in a Merle Haggard song, “Just a little lack of courage as their age began to show.”
People that are older just see and approach the world differently. And I think a lot of our leaders are too old. So, I think bring youth… the confidence of youth. I bring that recent practical experience. And my connection to so many common working people… and the wisdom that a lot of these people have.
CTEx: So, if not Congress, do you see yourself making another run for office? Have you ever held office?
KB: Have I ever held office? No. Would I make another run? The only run I’d ever consider would be as Candace Owens’ vice president. That would be the only one I’d ever consider, but I’d prefer, you know, I’d really prefer to just keep mowing lawns and making hay.