U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, will face Democratic challenger Nancy Jo Kemper on Nov. 8 for the right to represent Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.
The Bluegrass region’s Republicans on Tuesday backed Barr, 42, in his bid for a third term in the U.S. House. He defeated Harrison County welder and Tea Party activist Roger Brill.
In their primary, Democrats chose Kemper, 74, a pastor at New Union Christian Church in Woodford County, over Geoff Young of Lexington, a retired state energy official.
Barr is likely to be re-elected this fall unless there is a surprise development, such as damage inflicted on down-ballot Republicans by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, said Berea College political scientist John Heyrman.
Barr cruises into the general election with $1.29 million in campaign cash and ready access to deep-pocketed donors through his seat on the House Financial Services Committee, which helps regulate Wall Street. By contrast, Kemper has $71,589 and not much name recognition, Heyrman said. The state and national Democratic parties sat out this House race in 2014, letting Barr crush his Democratic challenger that year, he said.
“The obvious observation is that congressional incumbents win over 90 percent of the time,” Heyrman said. “And Barr has already been re-elected once, which tends to bump up his odds a little higher. If you’re going to take out an incumbent, you’re more likely to do it in that first re-election. After that, they tend to get safer and safer each time.”
“The one thing I will add is that the 6th District is the second-most Democratic congressional district in the state, after the 3rd, in terms of voter registration,” he said. “It has flipped back and forth between the two parties pretty regularly over the years. By all rights, although Kentucky is turning red politically, this should be a swing district. So in theory, Nancy Jo Kemper has a shot if she can raise enough money on her own to convince the national Democrats that she deserves their support.”
The 6th Congressional District includes Fayette and 16 other Central and Eastern Kentucky counties, plus parts of Jessamine and Harrison counties.
Barr, who was a lawyer in Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration, unseated U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, in 2012. Barr focuses much of his attention on the financial sector. Half of his bills in the 114th Congress deal with banking, usually an attempt to roll back sections of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a package of prohibitions on risky lending and investments that was enacted in response to the 2008 economic crash.
Until her retirement in 2009, Kemper served two decades as executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches. In that job, she lobbied the Kentucky General Assembly on issues on which her group’s 11 denominations unanimously agreed — against the death penalty and casino gambling, in favor of gun control, progressive tax reform and universal access to health care.
In a recent interview, Kemper said she believes Barr is vulnerable through his close relationship with the big banks. But Barr replied in a separate interview that federal regulations, not bad behavior by banks, led to the 2008 economic crash.
“The true cause of the financial crisis was bad government policy,” Barr said. “It was the Community Reinvestment Act. It was Fannie May and Freddie Mac purchasing billions of dollars in subprime mortgages, which was part of government policy. And — look, it was a bipartisan policy. But the truth of the matter was, why were banks lending money to people who could not afford to repay those loans? They were doing so because they could then sell those mortgages at a profit to the government, which was fueling the origination of subprime and risky loans.”
In Western Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District, a seat opened by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, GOP voters overwhelmingly chose former state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer of Tompkinsville in a four-man race. Comer will face Democrat Samuel L. Gaskins of Hopkinsville in November.
In Southeastern Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, easily defeated GOP challenger John Burk Jr., also of Somerset. Rogers has served in Congress since 1981 and won’t face a Democrat in the fall.
Nancy Jo Kemper
Geoffrey M. “Geoff” Young
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Roger Q. Brill
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