Central Kentucky voters decided Tuesday to send U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, back to Congress for a third term, letting Republicans keep a comfortable grip on Kentucky’s federal delegation.
Barr, 43, easily defeated Democratic challenger Nancy Jo Kemper, 74, a Woodford County church pastor and former executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches.
Barr faced a liberal opponent who campaigned on a platform of stronger government intervention — a higher minimum wage, more spending on public infrastructure, cheaper college tuition and a full-throated defense of existing environmental and banking regulations. By contrast, Barr called for a smaller government that does less. He voted dozens of times to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act; he described the federal war on poverty as a costly failure, and he recommended stricter work requirements for public benefits recipients.
Complimenting Kemper in his victory speech, Barr said: “Competition is good for democracy. And while we disagreed on many issues, she ran a great campaign, and we presented the voters with a very important choice.”
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Kemper never had much chance of winning in the 6th Congressional District, said Don Dugi, a political scientist at Transylvania University.
“It’s the power of incumbency,” Dugi said. “The guy in office enjoys better name recognition, and he gets so much more money — especially from the political action committees in Washington trying to get his attention. Look how much more Barr had to spend this year than Kemper did. And he spent a lot of it throwing dirt at her on television, trying to drag her down. There’s a reason that more than 90 percent of these House races aren’t really competitive.”
As of Oct. 19, Barr had raised $2.32 million, nearly half of it from PACs. Kemper had raised $418,412, mostly from individuals.
As it has fought in recent years to preserve its narrow majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives, the state Democratic Party has all but given up on all but one of Kentucky’s six U.S. House seats.
In the 2nd and 5th congressional districts, the Democrats didn’t even field a challenger Tuesday against incumbent Republicans Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green and Hal Rogers of Somerset.
In the 1st Congressional District, voters chose Republican James Comer of Tompkinsville, a former state agriculture commissioner, over Democrat Samuel Gaskins of Hopkinsville. Voters in the 4th Congressional District re-elected Republican Thomas Massie of Garrison over Democrat Calvin Sidle of Highland Heights.
The sole remaining Democrat whom Kentucky sends to Congress, Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville’s 3rd Congressional District, beat Republican Harold Bratcher.
Nancy Jo Kemper, D 202,093
Andy Barr, R 128,760