Lexington attorney Andy Barr wants another shot at trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, but he first must dispatch two challengers in the May 22 Republican primary election for Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District.
Patrick J. Kelly II, a Lexington software engineer and entrepreneur, and Curtis Kenimer, a Bourbon County horse farmer, are making their first bid for public office.
Neither has reported to the Federal Election Commission raising any campaign money. That puts them at a significant disadvantage to Barr, who reported raising $615,726 as of March 31, with $470,827 left in the bank.
Barr said he takes no election for granted but has no plans to run TV advertising in the primary election. He's saving his money for a likely run in the general election this fall against Chandler, a Versailles Democrat who reported raising $1.11 million as of March 31, with $1.03 million left in the bank.
Never miss a local story.
Chandler, who beat Barr by 647 votes two years ago, is unopposed in this spring's Democratic primary election.
Kenimer, 61, says he is "disappointed" that he will not have enough campaign money to get out his message of smaller government.
He puts his chances of winning the GOP primary at 99-1, but notes that he is the only candidate "from a rural area, which may help me, along with the fact that I have no desire to be a career politician and will be less susceptible to good old boys."
Kenimer said he does not regret getting into the race.
He said he knew when Chandler voted in 2009 for the so-called cap-and-trade measure aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions "that I would run against him someday."
"I will support whoever runs against Chandler," Kenimer said. "He has to go."
Chandler has said he voted for the measure that some called anti-coal because he "thought about my children, their future and the duty all of us have to protect God's creation."
Barr said the issue will be "front and center" in the fall race.
Kelly, 26, said he feels good about his chances in the Republican primary because of "strong grass-roots support."
"I worked hard in 2010 for the successful campaign of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and met a lot of good people," he said. "Also, many people know that Barr can't beat Chandler, so I expect they will give me a chance."
A common thread among Barr, Kenimer and Kelly is their disdain for President Barack Obama's policies, especially the Affordable Care Act, which they call Obamacare.
Barr, 38, said the measure is "a job-killer." Kenimer said it is tantamount to taxation without representation and Kelly described it as "a horrible program which doesn't fix the problem of expensive health care."
Kenimer is making support of the Fair Tax a priority in his campaign. The measure would eliminate the federal income tax and replace it with a national retail sales tax of 23 percent on new goods and services.
"It would treat all citizens equally," he said.
Kenimer also is advocating a permanent cap on the debt ceiling and term limits for members of Congress (three terms for representatives and two for senators). He said he opposes "Democratic Party policies like abortion."
Kelly said he is the candidate "closest to the Tea Party."
"Rand Paul is my role model," he said. "As one person, he has changed the discussion in Washington to smaller government."
If elected, Kelly said, he would vote for and support a balanced budget amendment, never vote for an unbalanced budget, never vote to raise taxes, vote to gradually change the eligibility requirements for Social Security and oppose abortion.
"I'm running because I disagree with most of what Ben Chandler stands for and I believe he is not in touch with the people of this district," he said. "Andy Barr and Curtis Kenimer are good guys, but I believe I have the strongest understanding of what is at stake here. Government should exist only to preserve and protect our rights."
Barr said his campaign is focusing on "a new kind of leadership in Washington — one that will stop the out-of-control spending, repeal Obamacare, protect and create jobs and be responsive to the people of the 6th District by holding office hours in all 19 counties at least once a month."
Barr was deputy general counsel for former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, but was not implicated in the hiring scandal that marred the Fletcher administration,
This year's redrawing of boundary lines by the state legislature for the 6th District will not hurt him, Barr predicted.
The redrawing made the district slightly more favorable for Democrats, increasing Democratic voter registration from 58 percent of the district to about 60 percent, he said.
"Still, this is a conservative district and I think with Obama on the ticket this year, many Democrats and Republicans will be coming out for me," Barr said. "It's a district that voted for John McCain (for president) in 2008."
Sixth Congressional District GOP candidate Andy Barr
Sixth Congressional District GOP candidate Patrick Kelly II
Sixth Congressional District GOP Candidate Curtis Kenimer