WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — A new candidate has entered the race for the NY-21 congressional seat.

Local resident Lonny Koons has announced his campaign to run for congressman in 2022, to represent New York’s 21st District.

According to Koons, his background is not in politics as he comes from a “blue-collar” background after growing up on a farm in Michigan. Koons is also a U.S. Army Veteran. He served in the Army as an airborne infantryman for just over 20 years.

During his military career, Koons was never stationed at Fort Drum, but he made several trips to the military base when he was stationed at the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk.

Leading up to his retirement, he and his family chose to live near Fort Drum and they now reside in Carthage, New York. Koons said that he first gained interest in entering the political realm after his retirement.

“Once I retired, I started listening to people talk and I started doing my own research and realizing that every single person that’s currently serving as a Congressman or Senator, they have this rhetoric speech of understanding us, “the little guy,” the middle-class blue-collar American, but very few of them have experienced that lifestyle,” Koons expressed.

He said that as a veteran, from growing up in a blue-collar family and now working as a truck driver he has a lot to bring to the table.

“Coming from a blue-collar background, a normal upbringing, I can associate with people more readily,” he explained. “It’s not a matter of me having to sit down and think about what the people need, I’ve experienced it. Specifically speaking about soldiers again, I served for 20 years in 11 days. I know what it feels like to be a soldier and some of the plight that we feel.”

With this, he said bringing more opportunities to the North Country military community is one of his top priorities.

“One of the biggest problems with the North Country itself, as far as for people moving up here, and I saw this in the military is this is one of the three places in the military that people kind of avoid,” Koons stated.

“So, what I’d like to see again, is a lot of infrastructures built to not only make soldiers want to stay, but make them want to come here to begin,” he added.

Koons explained that his “Military Rejuvenation for the North Country and 10th Mountain Division” would include building a better hospital or expanding medical resources, open shopping on the edge of the base and better VA resources.

Some of the other issues Koons is focusing on include political equality, reforms to the police and judicial systems, bail systems and prison systems, as well as focusing on budget reforms and advocating for “pro-whole life.”

A major part of his campaign is his Operation: Boots on the Ground where Koons is set to walk the entire 21st District beginning in early January. He said this will be a way to connect with local residents and hear concerns. In this time he will spend 73 days walking and covered nearly 6,000 miles.

Koons will embark on Operation: Boots on the Ground on January 4, with a tentative end date of April 25. He will be facing Congresswoman Elise Stefanik in the 2022 election.