Leach launches historic attorney campaign


Alumna Madison Leach is running for Calloway County Attorney. (Photo courtesy of Madison Leach)

Ava Chuppe, Staff Writer

University alumna Madison Leach has made history as the first openly transgender person to run for public office in Calloway County.

“I’ve been told that I’m the first in the state,” Leach said.

Leach, who has practiced criminal defense and family law in the area for seven years, is running for county attorney.

The incumbent, Bryan Ernstberger, previously ran unopposed. Leach said she decided to run because it is important to have conversations about criminal justice reform during each election cycle.

“I just don’t think that’s healthy for a democracy for someone to run unopposed over and over again,” Leach said.

In addition, Leach said she thought it was important for an openly trans person to run for office, given that the trans community has become a “punching bag” for the Republican Party.

“They have put so many bills through the Kentucky Assembly and almost every state in the country attacking trans people and trans youth, so I thought it was important to run as an attorney in this community and allow that visibility to bring awareness to trans people and some other issues,” Leach said.

Leach graduated from Murray State in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Following graduation, she started at the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University and later transferred to the Southern Illinois University School of Law, where she graduated in 2015.

Leach said the local area needs more programs to provide students with hands-on experience before they decide to go to law school.

“I think sometimes some students are disadvantaged in these internship programs because they are usually not paid,” Leach said. “If we could find some funding or even some grant money or somewhere in the budget to advocate for a stipend for these students, we could have a larger base of students who intern for us.

Leach said she would work with the political science, criminal justice or psychology departments to allow students to experience the courtroom.

“There are tons of resources here,” Leach said. “We should be using them.”

During her time at Murray State, Leach minored in psychology, which she called one of the biggest assets from her undergraduate experience for practicing law today.

“Those classes gave me a basic understanding of social psychology, abnormal psychology and the resources we need to have in place in order to treat them,” Leach said. “Lots of psychology studies…show it can make things worse to incarcerate somebody when you’re putting them in there for minor offenses.”

Leach said opponent Ernstberger has argued no effective deterrent exists for theft. However, she maintains that theft is a result of poverty and thrill-seeking psychology.

“When you approach that topic, you know there are ways to reduce recidivism if you treat the individual with more than just jail,” Leach said. “My opponent wants to make sure that jail time is higher than surrounding counties so they steal elsewhere, but that’s not right. Counties are imaginary lines, and I don’t think criminals understand if I commit this crime in Marshall, I’ll get less jail time than I would in Calloway.”

Since most dockets are for repeat offenders, Leach said the county needs a new approach to reducing recidivism—the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend.

“What’s most likely to keep that offender from coming back into the courtroom and being a repeat offender?” Leach said. “If you want to lower the crime rate, you have to figure out how to keep those people out of the courtroom.”

As a criminal defense and family attorney, Leach has represented several women who have experienced partner abuse. She said she takes domestic violence seriously.

“Sometimes, that involves more than just locking up the offender,” Leach said. “Sometimes, that involves getting the victim resources or getting them in touch with local certified programs, such as the Merryman House, that can help them.”

Leach believes the U.S. is over-incarcerated, which she attributed in part to marijuana laws.

“I think that marijuana should be just as socially acceptable as having a glass of wine at the end of the day, as long as you’re not driving on it,” Leach said. “It’s less harmful than McDonald’s or alcohol, for sure.”

Leach reported knowing individuals who graduated from Murray State but were unable to find employment because of marijuana charges from their undergraduate years. She said this is unfortunate.

“Marijuana laws ruin people’s lives unnecessarily,” Leach said. “I’m going to ask all they have to do to get a charge dismissed is to get an evaluation from a social clinician.”

Leach noted she would continue to prosecute those using other illegal drugs or driving with any substance that impairs their ability to drive.

Though the voter registration and absentee ballot request deadlines have passed, early voting in Calloway County will be open on Nov. 3 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Nov. 4 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Nov. 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. All early voting will occur at the Calloway County Courthouse Annex on 201 S. 4th St.

Kentucky will hold Election Day on Nov. 8. In Calloway County, polling places will include the CFSB Center, North Calloway Elementary School, Southwest Calloway Elementary School, New Concord Church of Christ, Elm Grove Baptist Church and Hazel Baptist Church. All locations will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

To find your polling location, visit elect.ky.gov.

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