Andy Barr, Elisabeth Jensen take to the airwaves in fight for congressional seat

jcheves@herald-leader.comSeptember 4, 2014 

It's just what Central Kentuckians wanted on their televisions: more political ads.

Both candidates in the 6th Congressional District started airing their first commercials of the fall campaign this week.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, began airing two 30-second spots Wednesday, reintroducing himself to voters as his freshman term nears its end.

"Barr has defended us by standing up to Obama and fighting for jobs," a female narrator says in one ad, over the image of four coal miners. In the other ad, Barr's wife, Carol, describes the congressman as "honest, genuine and caring."

"Andy continues to communicate his positive message about how he will remain accessible to the people of Central and Eastern Kentucky, hold Washington accountable and promote policies that will create a healthy economy for 6th District families," Barr spokesman Blake Brickman later said in a prepared statement.

Democratic challenger Elisabeth Jensen begins her ad with a jab at Barr, showing a 2012 televised clip of him saying, "Washington doesn't create jobs; government doesn't create jobs." Jensen then pushes his frozen image off the screen and says, "No wonder nothing gets done in Washington. Congressman Andy Barr doesn't think it's his job to create jobs. Well, my job will be to create more, better-paying Kentucky jobs."

When Barr made his jobs comment during an October 2012 KET debate, he immediately added: "The government can create an environment in which the private sector creates jobs. The problem with our current economy and our jobs crisis is that the government is over-regulating, over-taxing and spending too much money, displacing private economic activity. We need to get the government out of the way to create a level of certainty for entrepreneurs, small businesses and job creators."

Jensen's ad continues her campaign's effort to remind voters that Barr is a member of the 113th Congress, which has produced little significant legislation, shut down the government last year and had a job approval rating of 13 percent in August's Gallup poll.

Attack ads usually reduce voter turnout, which works against Democrats because they traditionally have a tougher time getting their voters to show up on Election Day, said Don Dugi, a political scientist at Transylvania University in Lexington.

But Jensen "really has no choice," Dugi said.

"It's not easy trying to displace an incumbent. They have so many advantages, financial and otherwise," Dugi said. "The re-election rate for incumbent members of Congress is about 90 percent."

On June 30, Barr was sitting on $1.36 million in campaign cash, 42 percent of which came from political action committees. Barr has collected at least $442,000 from the banking, finance and insurance industries as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, where he has protested government regulations that he says are too burdensome, complex and counterproductive for businesses.

Jensen, who runs an education nonprofit in Lexington, is making her first run for office. She had $276,312 on hand on June 30.

Barr is favored to win re-election Nov. 4 by Washington-based political observers including Roll Call, the Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics, although 57 percent of his district's voters are Democrats and just 34 percent are Republicans.

"Remember," Dugi said, "the 6th District isn't just the city of Lexington; it's also the outlying counties, and rural areas in Kentucky tend to vote conservative. That favors Republicans no matter what the voters' actual registration is."

However, the Jensen campaign said this week that the race would be competitive.

"Things are going really well," said Allan Rivlin, a spokesman for Jensen. "Elisabeth has been out meeting voters in every county in the district."

At least two televised debates are scheduled between Barr and Jensen, one on KET's Kentucky Tonight on Oct. 20 and the other at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond on Oct. 27. The second one will air on WKYT-TV.

The 6th District is anchored, in terms of population, by Lexington and most of the surrounding cities, including Georgetown, Richmond and Winchester. It extends as far east as Fleming, Menifee and Wolfe counties.

See ads from the 6th District race between Andy Barr, Elisabeth Jensen

Jensen ad

Barr ads

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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