Two candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination to face U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in the fall.
Geoff Young, a retired state employee who has run unsuccessfully for governor, Congress and state representative, faces the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper who served almost two decades as executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches and is making her first run for public office.
Democrats should support Kemper. Her experience and skills make her both the stronger candidate for the fall and more likely to make a real contribution in Congress if elected.
At the Council of Churches, Kemper worked to forge consensus among the very diverse membership on issues affecting Kentucky. She describes herself as both an idealist and a realist. Her years lobbying the Kentucky General Assembly for the council on a wide range of issues — among them opposing the death penalty and casino gambling, and promoting tax reform and access to health care — give her a realist’s view of how to actually get things done in a legislative body.
Kemper also brings her real-life experience as a single mother raising two daughters to addressing the challenges facing families in the 6th District. She advocates for an increased minimum wage, stronger bargaining rights and keeping jobs from going offshore as ways to help working families. In education, she supports nationwide mandatory pre-kindergarten to assure kids are ready for school and measures to reduce student debt.
Young has shown neither the political ability to mount a viable campaign against Barr in the fall nor the temperament to be effective if he were elected to Congress.
His campaign rhetoric is marked by railing against both Kemper (“my cowardly, unqualified, female opponent”) and the Democratic Party that he seeks to represent (“dumber than a bucket of rocks”).
He has also shown a propensity for confrontation rather than negotiation, resorting to lawsuits against the Kentucky Democratic Party, the Lexington Division of Police and Good Foods Co-Op in different disputes — a history that does not recommend him as a congressman who could reach out to effect legislation.
Kemper has also shown the greater ability to raise money, an essential qualification for a candidate to stand a chance against the very well-funded Barr.
Kemper, who graduated from Yale Divinity School, is pastor at New Union Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation in Woodford County. She decries “the toxic stew of ugly rhetoric,” in politics today. She preaches instead that “hey, we’re in this together,” and need to help each other to solve our problems.
Democrats should give her the chance to deliver that message in the fall.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Thursday.