Bronze Star recipient Chase Kohne enlisted in the Army for the same reason he became a veterinarian: his deep lifelong desire to serve others and help them thrive.
Kohne, a veteran and Army Reserve Major with a Civil Affairs Battalion based at Fort Carson, owns his own large animal veterinary practice in Castle Rock, Colorado. He specializes in emergency surgery to treat colic, a painful gastrointestinal condition that often afflicts horses and other equines. Without emergency surgery, severe colic is fatal. “Without surgery, that horse will die,” says Kohne “If I can perform the surgery, not only do I save the horse’s life, I also prevent the owner from having to go through that loss as well.”
Kohne planned to run for office after his Army career and the 39 year-old father of two decided now’s the time to step up. He points to his father’s law enforcement career and run for sheriff as a major inspiration to seek his own career in public service. “The opportunity to serve in Congress is an honor and a privilege,” he says. “Citizens should run for office because they are dedicated to public service over personal ambition.”
The Castle Rock Democrat is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Colorado’s sprawling and mostly rural fourth Congressional district, which covers nearly the entire eastern half of the state. He’s a strong proponent of healthcare reform, renewable energy, public education, and restoring honesty and integrity to Congress. He’s among several veterans hoping to secure the Democratic party’s nomination to flip House seats in the 2018 midterm election.
Kohne, who described himself as a lifelong Democrat, enlisted after 9/11 and served in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province with the Agricultural Development Team, where he encouraged Afghans to cooperate with U.S. forces. Kohne also urged villagers to plant food crops instead of opium and he mobilized his veterinary background to help Afghans keep their sheep and goats healthy. Rural Afghans depend on sheep and goats as a source of income and sustenance. “Rural Afghans don’t have bank accounts,” says Kohne. “Their herds are their bank, so they depend on their herds.”
Kohne received the Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan. His wife Amberlie, a nurse, also serves in the Army Reserve, where she’s a medical logistics officer holding the rank of Captain. She is currently deployed to Germany.
Kohne said his veteran status helps him reach out to voters who are skeptical of Democrats but hold high opinions of those who’ve served their country. “It opens the door a crack,” he says. “And if I can open that door a crack, maybe I can open it a little more.”
Growing up in a small town of 600 gave Kohne a firsthand understanding of how rural communities can suffer when Washington leaves them behind. Likewise, his work treating horses, cattle, and sheep also enables him to understand rural issues and reach out to rural voters. “They already know who I am,” he says. “They’ve had a vet out to see their animals, so I’m someone they know and trust.”
His platform includes issues of national interest such as universal healthcare and renewable energy that are particularly important to the well-being of rural communities yet aren’t often framed as such. “Healthcare, renewable energy, education—these are topics of national importance, yes, but they also tie directly back to my district,” he says. “Rural hospitals depend on Medicare and Medicaid to stay open. There’s still a big achievement gap between rural and urban students, and rural families depend on public schools because usually there’s no other option. Wind and solar energy can provide many short-term jobs as well as long-term skilled jobs on Colorado’s eastern plains.”
Kohne is one of several doctors and others with STEM backgrounds running for office. His career in medicine gives him a solid understanding of his most important issue: healthcare reform. He sees firsthand how medical neglect allows preventable conditions to turn into costly emergencies. “By emphasizing preventative medicine, we will see a vast reduction in healthcare spending,” he says.
Kohne isn’t the only Colorado veteran seeking to flip a Republican-held House seat: Democrat and veteran Jason Crow is challenging Republican incumbent Mike Coffman in Colorado’s sixth congressional district.
For Kohne, who said he’s never backed down from a challenge, running for Congress is a natural extension of his lifelong desire to serve his country and live with honor and integrity. “Serving your country is honorable, being a veterinarian is honorable,” he says. “We think of being a politician as dishonorable, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”