Politics & Government

Feminist. Progressive. Barr attack ad says those qualities make McGrath too liberal.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Amy McGrath, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Amy McGrath, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.

Facing his toughest re-election battle, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr launched a television ad Monday that seeks to define Democratic opponent Amy McGrath as “too liberal for Kentucky.”

The 30-second ad shows black and white clips of McGrath saying she’s a feminist, she’s progressive, she’s pro-choice, she voted for former President Barack Obama twice and she thinks President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall is “stupid.”

Barr, R-Lexington, started airing general election ads in July, but this is the first in which he mentions McGrath, a sign the three-term congressman is vulnerable. It was widely anticipated that the campaigns would go negative, but it is unusual to do so in early August.

“Usually, incumbents experiment with ignoring their opponents for as long as they can because grappling with them in advertising gives them credibility,” said Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.

The ad serves as another attempt to define McGrath’s image, Voss said. Barr has tried to paint McGrath as a liberal outsider since before she won the Democratic primary in May. In speeches throughout the district, he has tried to tie her to national Democrats and the Hollywood stars who have supported her campaign.

“My opponent is a radical progressive who will serve as a rubber stamp for the Democrats’ agenda,” Barr said on Twitter. “Simply put, she’s too liberal for Kentucky.”

It’s the standard tactic for a Republican in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, where Trump won by more than 15 percentage points in 2016. But it’s a difficult track to take against McGrath, who ran her primary campaign as a moderate and often leans on her military experience and her marriage to a Republican to shake accusations of being a party loyalist.

In her response to Barr’s ad Monday, McGrath focused on those military bona fides.

“When you can’t run on your record, this is all you got,” McGrath said. “...I sat on a runway on Sept 11 with missiles strapped to my F-18 awaiting POTUS orders to shoot down civilian aircraft to defend our homeland. What sacrifice have you ever made for our country over your party?”

Barr’s ad comes on the same day Inside Elections moved Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District race from leans Republican to a toss-up. The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics also consider the race a toss-up.

Republican Andy Barr says he hopes to win a fourth term representing Central Kentucky in Congress.