Herald-Leader Editorial

Choose Jensen for 6th District; Democrat building base to challenge Barr

May 14, 2014 


Elisabeth Jensen is the stronger candidate in the Democratic primary for the 6th District congressional seat.

Her campaign is better organized and funded, her background in business and education broadens her appeal, and she has the personality and energy that enable her to capitalize on it.

It also doesn't take much effort to see her as a serious challenger to incumbent Rep. Andy Barr in the fall.

She already has gained national media attention — and Gov. Steve Beshear's support — for her embrace of Kentucky's effective rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Mother of a 10-year-old son, Jensen recently started an outreach to moms, to connect with the district's majority women voters; and she already has a coalition of Republican women supporters.

With the likelihood that the U.S. Senate race will drive more Democratic voters and women to the polls, Jensen could build momentum for a strong challenge.

It won't be easy. Whatever one thinks of Barr's policies and politics, the freshman lawyer is a well-liked, hard-working campaigner who is responsive to constituents.

Unopposed in the primary, he has a full campaign chest and is a favorite for largess from the financial services industry.

But it would be to Democratic voters' detriment to ignore Jensen's potential.

Jensen, 50, is an Indiana native who went to a manufacturing and design trade school and worked for Walt Disney Corp. in clothes manufacturing, and for Gitano, a jeans company. She fell in love with Lexington and moved here to manage horse farms.

Recognizing the need for education of farmworkers' children, she helped start Race for Education, a nonprofit that provides scholarships and focuses on literacy and other education initiatives. She has led the organization for 10 years. This is her first run for elective office.

Also running in the primary is Geoff Young, a retired engineer who came to Kentucky in 1982 and has worked in various state energy programs.

The Massachusettes native has a bachelor's in economics from MIT and received a master's in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusettes and a master's in agricultural economics from the University of Kentucky,

He ran in 2012 as a member of the Green Party for the seat held by state Rep. Stan Lee, getting eight percent of the vote.

Young is putting a lot more money and effort into this race. But he also has spent the primary season in conflicts, legal and otherwise, with groups he could have used for support. Meanwhile, Jensen has been expanding her coalition.

There are no significant policy differences between the candidates. Young focuses on energy, taxes, foreign policy and the environment. Jensen emphasizes job creation, workforce training, education, infrastructure investment and health care.

Whoever takes on Barr needs to be able to raise money, both locally and nationally, and appeal to voters across party lines about issues people really care about. In this race, that's Elisabeth Jensen.

The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.

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