U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler can't be pigeonholed.
During almost nine years in Congress, the Woodford County Democrat has cast votes that irked a wide variety of people, including us.
Step back and view his record as a whole, and what emerges is a profile of independence. In a government that's been poisoned by partisanship, Chandler defends the shrinking middle ground.
He also brings deep knowledge of Kentucky and long experience trying to make government work for Kentuckians, beginning in 1991 when he was elected state auditor. In two subsequent terms as attorney general he started a telemarketer no-call list and prosecuted prominent members of his own party.
Never miss a local story.
By contrast, GOP challenger Andy Barr of Lexington offers Republican boilerplate and nowhere near Chandler's depth or experience.
Independent Randolph Vance is running a Web-based campaign carrying on the late Gatewood Galbraith's causes, including industrial hemp and repealing the Patriot Act.
Barr calls for tax cutting and deregulating our way to prosperity by renewing policies that led to the worst economy since the Great Depression. He doesn't understand or acknowledge that reforms he backs would fundamentally transform and weaken Medicare.
And while both campaigns are nasty, Barr's mailers and commercials mislead to the point of being a disservice to the public. Brace for more as outside groups keep pouring money into one of 50 House contests (out of 435 seats) that are considered competitive.
The 6th is very much a swing district, even after redistricting added more Democrats, many of whom have been voting Republicans into national office for years.
While not fitting under any convenient label, Chandler's record does reflect his district.
He voted against bailing out the banks but for saving the auto industry. He voted for the economic stimulus package but against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank restrictions on the financial industry because he said they would harm hometown hospitals and banks.
He's opposed tax increases, including those on the richest, until the economy improves because he says taking money from consumers slows recovery. Dealing with the debt should wait, he says, for the same reason. He opposes House Republican cuts to education.
Chandler has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and United Mine Workers of America. The latter says he can't be the killer of coal jobs that Barr contends.
Chandler remains proud of his 2010 vote for a "cap and trade" system to reduce industrial emissions causing climate change, even though it never became law and drew huge flak from the coal industry.
"Cap and trade" provided $60 billion for research and technology to help coal compete with cleaner fuels such as natural gas, which is now also cheaper and largely responsible for coal's declining market.
More recently, Chandler has irked environmentalists by opposing EPA regulation of heat-trapping emissions, which would come with no help for coal or consumers facing higher electric bills.
In other words, Chandler has irritated both sides of Kentucky's hottest debate, while Barr has snuggled deep into Big Coal's pocket.
At a time when Congress can't keep dodging decisions by hiding behind partisan barricades, voters should do the nation and Kentucky a favor by keeping an independent voice like Chandler's in Washington.
Unendorsed candidates may submit 250-word responses by noon Wednesday.