MOOREFIELD — Republican Andy Barr pledged Tuesday to sponsor a constitutional amendment every year he is in Congress to limit terms of its members and remained mum on whether he believes there are any circumstances when abortion should be legal.
Barr, the GOP nominee running against Democratic incumbent Ben Chandler in Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, stopped short of putting a limit on his own possible tenure in Congress.
"No, I would not," Barr responded when asked if he would pledge to serve no more than six two-year terms in the U.S. House. "I do not anticipate serving six terms or that long. I might. I might not."
The issues of term limits and abortion came up Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television during the candidates' only debate before Tuesday's election.
Barr said on the show that he favored a 12-year limit for members of Congress. Chandler, who has been in the U.S. House since 2004, said term limits would hurt congressional members from small states in gaining power through seniority.
Chandler also questioned what Barr thought about term limits for Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Louisville and Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, who have served decades in Congress.
Barr said Tuesday after a campaign stop at Moorefield Store in rural Nicholas County that he recognizes the difficulty in getting term limits approved through a federal constitutional amendment.
"I think the way to get votes (for it) is to say to folks who have seniority and who have been there to make it prospective, in the future, in application," he said.
While Barr remained silent on possible exceptions for abortion, Margie Montgomery, the executive director of the Kentucky Right to Life, declined to say Tuesday whether its national organization asked Barr about possible exceptions to abortion before endorsing him.
"The Kentucky Right to Life Association PAC is satisfied with Mr. Barr's commitment to protecting unborn children and their mothers from the abortion-on-demand license of Roe v. Wade," Montgomery said via email, referring to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision that disallowed many state and federal restrictions on abortion.
"We won't participate in any media-manufactured outrage about the deeply held pro-life views of Andy Barr, especially in light of the extreme abortion-on-demand position of his opponent, Congressman Ben Chandler," Montgomery wrote.
The politically charged issue of abortion has entangled two Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate this year: Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. Akin's reference to "legitimate rape" and Mourdock's statement that pregnancies resulting from rape are intended by God produced a national firestorm. Mourdock later said he was not talking specifically about rape but about how all conceptions are due to God.
Barr was repeatedly asked during the KET debate whether there should be exceptions for abortion. He did not directly answer the question, but said he was pro-life and had been endorsed by groups that oppose abortion. Chandler said abortion is a tragedy but that the issue should be decided by a woman and her doctor.
Chandler started his day on the campaign trail Tuesday by touring the McKechnie Vehicle manufacturing plant in Nicholasville's industrial park. He used the occasion to tout his votes for the federal stimulus and auto bailout, which he said helped the business survive.
Tim Coots, operations manager for the auto parts company, said a $5 million federal loan saved the business, which is now the second-largest private employer in Jessamine County, with more than 400 employees.
Barr said he would have opposed the federal bailout but would have done everything possible to keep automakers General Motors and Chrysler from going out of business.
"I want to make sure that the way we save GM, Chrysler and the supply chain is responsible to the taxpayer," Barr said. "I don't think the auto bailout was as creative as it could have been and unnecessarily put taxpayers' dollars at risk."
Total employment for car makers and parts suppliers reportedly is up about 250,000 from 2009 with the federal assistance.
Chandler's campaign also released a new TV ad that highlights his family legacy in Kentucky politics. It features photos and the singing of My Old Kentucky Home by his late grandfather, former Gov. A.B. "Happy" Chandler.
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com