FRANKFORT — Lexington lawyer Andy Barr, who lost last year's race to represent Central Kentucky's 6th District by just 648 votes, announced Thursday he will seek the same seat in 2012.
Barr, a Republican, said in a statement his "top priority will be to stop Washington's reckless spending spree and work to avert a national debt crisis."
The congressional seat is held by Democrat Ben Chandler of Woodford County.
Chandler, who has been in Congress since 2004, fired a salvo at Barr's announcement, saying Barr is "back with the same radical agenda."
"Next year, voters will have a very simple choice to make: whether to protect and save Social Security and Medicare, or to end them," said Chandler, 51.
"Even though so many hard-working Kentuckians depend on Medicare and Medicaid, Andy Barr admitted this week that he supports ending them."
Chandler was referring to the federal budget plan offered by Republican House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which Barr has said he supports. Critics of the plan claim it will end Medicare.
Barr, 37, said Chandler's "claims are false. In fact, the greatest threat to Social Security and Medicare are career politicians who continue to put their head in the sand and deny that the United States is facing a catastrophic debt crisis."
Barr said in an interview he wants to save Social Security and Medicare, "but we need to have an adult conversation on these programs about their costs.
"I am committed to protecting current beneficiaries and those 55 and older and preserving their sustainability for future generations."
Barr said he is willing to debate Chandler "any time, any place" and hopes redrawing of the 6th District's boundaries by the state legislature later this year will keep the district intact "and not broken up for political reasons."
U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement "we need Republicans like Andy Barr to join us in Congress to cut spending, lower taxes and reduce the national debt."
Kentucky Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson said in a statement Barr "is a great campaigner and a rising star in Kentucky.
"Last year, he went from unknown to a statistical tie with a professional politician who has spent his entire adult lifetime running for office. In 2012, Andy will finish the job."
"Last year, we were grateful to have received the support of over 119,000 Central Kentucky voters," Barr said. "I am humbled by the encouragement from supporters to make another effort."
Barr finished last year's race 648 votes behind Chandler out of 239,224 votes cast in a district where 58 percent of voters are registered Democrats.
Chandler outspent Barr in the race $2.59 million to $1.51 million and already has raised $264,000 in the first three months of this year for the 2012 contest.