Central Kentucky Democrats chose political newcomer Elisabeth Jensen on Tuesday as their nominee to challenge U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, in the Nov. 4 election.
Jensen immediately set the tone for her fall campaign, describing herself as a working-class mom and Barr as a reckless defender of Wall Street banks.
"We need someone in Washington who is fiscally responsible but who also has a little bit of common sense and compassion," Jensen, 49, said in an interview.
Minutes earlier, speaking at a Democratic victory celebration in Lexington, Jensen said her campaign "may not have a Wall Street bankroll or a whole slew of special interests throwing checks at us, but we have a lot of passion and we have boots on the ground."
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Catherine Gatewood, a Barr spokeswoman, said it's "absurd" for anyone to call Barr the Wall Street candidate. "Andy Barr has the support of so many people in the 6th District, and that's because he represents their interests," Gatewood said.
Jensen, who lives in Lexington and runs an education nonprofit, defeated retired engineer Geoffrey Young, 57, in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District, which covers Fayette and 18 other counties.
During her primary campaign, Jensen said her priorities in Congress would be creating jobs, improving education, increasing the minimum wage, mandating equal pay for women and improving the lives of children.
Jensen broke from many Democratic candidates this year by embracing the federal Affordable Care Act, which has allowed more than 400,000 Kentuckians to sign up for health insurance.
Barr, 40, a lawyer, is finishing his first two-year term in Congress, having unseated Ben Chandler in 2012. Barr sits on the powerful House Committee on Financial Services, which regulates banks. Barr has aggressively pushed for industry-favored changes to banking regulations, and the financial services industry has paid several hundred thousand dollars into his campaign war chest.
As of April 30, Barr had raised $1.7 million for this election and had $1.1 million on hand. Jensen had raised $476,599 and had $184,378 on hand. Although the district leans Democratic in voter registration, several Washington observers, including The Cook Political Report, consider Barr likely to be re-elected.
"The dichotomy she'll want to stress is Main Street versus Wall Street, with the obvious implication that Wall Street doesn't need any more help," said Don Dugi, a political scientist at Transylvania University. "The problem is, not only will Barr spend a load of money on television ... but all of the right-wing and corporate-interest groups from outside will be coming in to support him with commercials, too."