Mike Carey’s Republican primary election campaign mailers highlighted that he was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and also sometimes drew special attention to where he grew up and how it shaped him.
“Mike Carey grew up in Sabina, a small town in rural Ohio. His hometown molded him into the person he is today and taught him the values of hard work, community, and freedom,” states a circular sent to households in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.
Regarding hard work, the 1989 East Clinton graduate Carey said, “I grew up in a time when you would be let out of school to go bale hay.”
He recalls loading classmates into his first car — a yellow, four-door Chevy he bought just outside Lees Creek — and they would go out and bale hay for farmers or go de-tassel corn.
That, he said, is what he’s talking about when he talks about the value of hard work.
“Being instilled that nothing’s ever given to you. You got to earn it,” Carey told the News Journal. “It’s something that my Dad instilled in me and in my brothers, and I think we have that in Clinton County.”
Carey specifically mentioned memories of de-tasseling corn for the Beam Family and pruning raspberry bushes in the winter at Stokes Berry Farm.
Carey grew up on a farm a couple miles outside Sabina off Routes 22 and 3. They mainly raised grain — soybeans and corn — as well as a little cattle and a few hogs. His father farmed and also owned Burke Monument Company in Washington Court House which also had an office in Wilmington in the Fizer Bakery building at the corner of South and Locust streets.
A member of the New Antioch Hustlers 4-H Club, young Mike Carey took hog projects to the county fair until his freshman year when he played football and was doing two-a-day practices.
Growing up, the family attended Sabina United Methodist Church while a grandmother went to the Catholic Church that was in New Vienna at the time.
Carey’s name made the Wilmington News Journal in high school when he took part in school plays. His final East Clinton High School play was “Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon”performed at the Murphy Theatre.
To perform on the Murphy stage as a young person felt like kind of a big deal, he said, noting it was a historical building and also was the place he saw “The Empire Strikes Back” as a kid.
One summer in high school he got involved in the American Legion’s Buckeye Boys State where attendees learn how Ohio government operates. That year two other Clinton County teenage boys — the Harris twins — were there with him. Carey ran for governor and won, with one of the Harris twins his lieutenant governor and the other twin becoming a Supreme Court justice.
“So Clinton County in 1988 did really well at Boys State,” he said.
After high school he headed to Marion Military Institute, a military junior college in Marion, Alabama with a buddy from East Clinton. After the two-year program there, he was commissioned in 1991 and came back to Ohio and completed a four-year degree at The Ohio State University.
When he returned to Ohio he had the chance to work for State Senator Merle Grace Kearns and started working at the Ohio Statehouse as a page.
After his time at the Statehouse, he said he had an opportunity to work on Capitol Hill in the nation’s capital for a couple years.
He then was hired by mining companies to run their trade association, he said, and did that for 13 years. For the past decade he worked for what was Murray Energy but now is American Consolidated Natural Resources. ACNR was formed in the summer of 2020 by former creditors of Murray Energy, which filed for bankruptcy in 2019.
Carey said he was vice president of government affairs for the company.
In running for Congress, he is not the first in his family to seek public office. Clinton County Juvenile and Probate Judge Chad L. Carey is a brother.
With the general election set for Nov. 2, Mike Carey will be opposed by Democrat Allison Russo.
In the interview for this profile article, the News Journal advised Carey that in a current update to the Clinton County comprehensive plan, public input identified the county’s outlying villages as “weak places” within the county. For purposes of the comprehensive plan, weak places were defined as places that need to be improved or changed; or as places at risk or that are threatened and need attention; or as places that have significant, untapped opportunity.
Carey said a key part of the solution is to make an environment that attracts businesses seeking to locate.
He remembers when New Sabina Industries Inc. first came to the Sabina vicinity “and the investment they put into that facility.”
And he added that everybody remembers Airborne Express — “when we had planes circling the county, we looked bigger than Port Columbus on a given night.”
Clinton County has taken some knocks over the years, he said, adding he thinks the folks here have done a great job in trying to redevelop the air park.
In revitalizing rural Midwest villages, a specific thing he thinks is very important is broadband access to the internet throughout the 15th Congressional District. It’s important not only for children doing remote learning, but in order for businesses to want to locate in an area, he said.
Carey said he’s truly honored by the number of votes he received in Clinton County in the Aug. 3 Special Congressional Primary Election.
“I took 57 percent of the vote in Clinton County in an 11-way primary, and it was humbling.”
Editor’s Note: The News Journal is also writing a profile of Democratic candidate Allison Russo.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.