Editor’s note: This is another installment in an occasional series for which reporters at The Times-Tribune and other CNHI newspapers across the U.S. talk to voters about issues that matter to them and their thoughts about the country’s political landscape.
Lewis Ace Burke stood in line with dozens of others hoping for a chance to see, speak and eat with Vice President Mike Pence during his scheduled stop at Corbin’s Shep’s Place recently.
Sporting a red “Trump 2020” hat, Burke says he’s been with Trump from day one.
“I’ve been with him since the start. I’m on his committee,” he said reaching for his wallet. He then pulled out a gold card that read “National Republican Congressional Committee” and “House Majority Gold Card.”
“Here, I’ll show you my other credentials, too.” He then pulled out a black card that read “Presidential Advisory Board.”
Burke, a resident of Scott County, made the drive to Corbin in hopes of asking Vice President Pence a favor. Burke, an ex-international representative of the United Mine Workers, says he’s worried about miners and families who depend on coal to pay the bills.
“What I’m trying to do here today is trying to get the Vice President to get Donald Trump to write an executive order to start the coal classification plants up that Jimmy Carter put in.”
Burke says that he believes that former President Barack Obama killed the coal industry.
“The union I worked for, we backed him and he sold us for his Sierra Club. So that killed us, that killed the coal business. He killed the coal business. Pike County, Floyd County, Knott County, Letcher County and all those surrounding counties in eastern Kentucky, that’s what they depend on, that’s their economy. The election is going to be decided right in there. You’ve got people who’s coal miners and they vote democratic, they’ve got a hole in their head.”
Burke says his cousin used to own Pike County Coal and was to meet Burke in London for that evening's scheduled rally for Gov. Matt Bevin.
“What happened with this governor, they reached him an empty bank, no money in it or nothing,” said Burke. “He’s took the teachers' fund and tried to put it on solid ground. He’s took unorganized labor and what it is he’s had a hard way to go.”
In Burke’s opinion, former Gov. Preston Jones is the only Kentucky Governor to have a budget.
“He had a good budget, he had a rainy day fund. He’s a good friend of mine.”
When it comes to policies, Burke says that he is in favor of the wall. He says he doesn’t like the fact that illegal immigrants work and don’t pay taxes.
“I’m 82 years old and I pay taxes on my social security. I pay tax on everything because I’m a veteran and I believe in that. This is not about race, this is about whether Capitalists or Socialists are going to rule America. That’s what the problem is. It started 30 years ago, and it keeps building momentum.”
“I lived under [Franklin] Roosevelt. I’m going to tell you the truth, he started social security the year I was born 1937,” he continued. “Then when I was 5 years old, you had to have a sticker for sugar, you had to have a sticker for shoes, you had to have a sticker for gasoline, you had to have a sticker for cigarettes and he drowned all the hogs in the ocean. My dad gave $300 for two hogs and that was in 1944. So that’s where they’re headed, that way.”
Burke admits he didn’t always vote for Republicans. In fact, the card carrying conservative used to be a Democrat.
“I’ve been a Republican for the last 10 years. Years ago I was a straight, yellow dog Democrat. Democrats left me, I didn’t leave them. They left the working man. Now the blue collar workers are with Donald Trump. Donald Trump is the Republican Party.”