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Meet the Kentucky Democrats who want to kick Andy Barr out of Congress

Jim Gray, Reggie Thomas and Amy McGrath
Jim Gray, Reggie Thomas and Amy McGrath Herald-Leader Staff Photos

For the first time since U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, was elected in 2012, there is a competitive Democratic primary as candidates vie for the chance to challenge him in November.

There are six Democratic candidates running in the race, but three of them — Geoff Young, Theodore Green and Daniel Kemph — have run limited campaigns.

Here's what you need to know about the top three candidates.

Jim Gray

What's his birthday? Jim Gray was born on August 18, 1953.

Where's he from? Gray grew up in Glasgow, but he moved to Lexington in the early 1980s to open the Lexington office of Gray Construction. He's been here since.

Where'd he go to school? Gray started his college education at Emory University but transferred to Western Kentucky University after his father died in 1972. After a brief time at WKU, Gray eventually got his bachelor's degree in history from Vanderbilt University. In 1998, he was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, where he studied urban planning.

What does he do? Gray is the mayor of Lexington. Prior to that, he helped run his family's company, Gray Construction. In 2004, he was elected president of the company. In 2009, in light of his run for mayor, he was named chairman and CEO.

Tell me about his family. Gray grew up in a big family in Glasgow. He's one of six children and is the grandson of CC Howard, who founded the state's tuberculosis hospital network. Gray publicly revealed he is gay in 2005 He is single.

What has he done politically? Gray's first taste of national politics was in 1972, when he was a Kentucky delegate to the Democratic National Convention (he went to the convention unpledged, but eventually voted for McGovern). He became Vice Mayor of Lexington in 2006 when he received the most votes of anyone running for council at large. He won his first term as mayor in 2010 and has been in the role ever since. He launched a statewide campaign for U.S. Senate in 2016 to challenge Rand Paul, but lost.

All right, but where does he stand on gun legislation? Gray says he would first like to see universal background checks on gun sales. He also supports a ban on bump stocks, but doesn't support raising the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21.

How about health care? Gray supports the Affordable Care Act and would like to see improvements to the bill. For example, he'd like for Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to help drive down the cost of prescriptions.

And opioid abuse? Gray has called for more federal funding to address the opioid epidemic. In particular, he'd like the federal government to do more to lessen the stigma surrounding addiction.

Where does he stand on cannabis? Gray supports the legalization of medicinal marijuana. He'd leave the legalization of recreational marijuana up to the states.

Would he vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the U.S. House? Gray says it's time for new leadership and he wouldn't support Pelosi as Speaker of the House if Democrats win control in November.

Tell me something I don't know about him. Gray is an avid collector of contemporary art. According to his financial disclosure form, he owns between $1 million and $5 million in visual and antiquity investments. He says "really creative artists will have ideas that reflect where we are and where we’re going."

Is there a profile story where I can learn more about him? Yes! Click here!

Amy McGrath

When's her birthday? Amy McGrath was born on June 3, 1975.

Where's she from? McGrath grew up in Edgewood. She spent most of her adult life living around the world as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps before moving back to Kentucky in July 2017. She now lives in Georgetown.

Where'd she go to school? McGrath went to the U.S. Naval Academy, where she got a degree in political science. She also has a master's degree in international studies from Johns Hopkins University and a certificate in legislative studies from Georgetown University.

What does she do? McGrath recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corps. Her last job was a political science instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy. Before that, she served in three combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the first woman marine to ride an F-18 into combat.

Tell me about her family. McGrath's mom was a physician and her dad was a teacher. She has a brother and sister. Her husband Eric is a registered Republican and was a pilot in the Navy. She has three young children: Teddy, George and Eleanor.

What has she done politically? Aside from teaching political science, McGrath served on Capitol Hill for a year as a military adviser to Rep. Susan Davis, D-California. After that, she served for two years at the Pentagon, where she tried to improve cooperation on anti-terrorism efforts between the Marine Corps and other government agencies.

All right, but where does she stand on gun legislation? McGrath says she would like to see universal background checks and a ban on bump stocks. She says "everything should be on the table."

How about health care? McGrath supports the Affordable Care Act but would like to see improvements. In particular, she supports a Medicare buy-in, where people over 55 can join Medicare early. She also supports a public insurance option, where people could choose between a government plan or a private insurer.

And opioid abuse? McGrath has called for more federal funding to battle an epidemic of opioid abuse.

Where does she stand on cannabis? McGrath supports legalizing medicinal marijuana and declassifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug so that it can be more widely researched.

Would she vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the U.S. House? McGrath says she doesn't have any allegiance to the national Democratic leadership, but can't say how she'll vote until she knows who is running.

Tell me something I don't know about her. McGrath has run three marathons. She ran the Pensacola Marathon, the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati and the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego. She also did the Great Floridian Triathlon, which is a half-ironman.

Is there a profile story? Obviously. Click here!

Reggie Thomas

What's his birthday? Reggie Thomas was born on May 20, 1953.

Where's he from? Thomas was born in Chicago, but moved to Lexington as a teenager. After attending college in the Northeast, he moved back to Lexington in the early 80s.

Where'd he go to school? Thomas got a bachelor's degree in government from Dartmouth College before getting his law degree from Harvard University.

What does he do? Thomas is a state senator in the Kentucky General Assembly. He's also a professor at Kentucky State University and operates his own law firm.

Tell me about his family. Thomas' mother moved his family to Lexington shortly after his father died of a heart attack. Thomas was married to Lynda Morris Thomas for 35 years until she died in 2015. The couple had three children.

What has he done politically? Thomas has served as a state senator from Lexington since 2013.

All right, but where does he stand on gun legislation? Thomas says there needs to be common sense changes to gun legislation. He supports banning bump stocks, universal background checks, lifting the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21 and a government buyback program of military-style assault rifles.

How about health care? Thomas supports a single-payer health care system.

And opioid abuse? Thomas has called for more federal funding to address the opioid epidemic and says legalizing medicinal marijuana could be a way to prevent addiction.

Where does he stand on cannabis? Thomas supports the legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana.

Would he vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the U.S. House? Thomas says he thinks it's time for new leadership, but that it would be foolish of him to say who he's voting for before he knows who is running.

Tell me something I don't know about him. Along with being a fan of the University of Kentucky, Thomas is a big Chicago sports fan. His favorite sport is baseball because "it's a thinking man's game" and he roots for the Chicago Cubs. He attended the Super Bowl both times the Chicago Bears played.

Is there a profile story? You know it. Click Here!

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