Politics & Government

‘I am more progressive...’ McGrath statement at fundraiser featured in Barr attack ad

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

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr’s campaign has settled into a pattern this August. Three weeks in a row, on Monday morning, it has released an attack ad against Democratic Candidate Amy McGrath.

This week, the attack is based on comments the campaign says McGrath made at a fundraiser in Massachusetts.

“I am further left, I am more progressive, than anyone in the state of Kentucky,” McGrath says in a recording obtained by the Barr campaign.

The ad later shows McGrath noting that the Kentucky Coal Museum has solar panels and saying “it’s not necessarily about Kentucky.”

Mark Nickolas, McGrath’s campaign manager, said he wasn’t sure of the context of the quotes. But he did say the consistent attacks from Barr were a sign the incumbent is feeling nervous about the race.

“When you can’t run on your record all you can do is take comments out of context and attack, attack, attack,” Nickolas said. “I continue to think the voters see through all this trash.”

As McGrath has attempted to court rural voters in the district, Barr has hammered the idea that she is too liberal for the Central Kentucky district President Donald Trump won by more than 15 points in 2016. Despite the Republican-leaning voting history of the district, several D.C. political analysts have rated the race as a toss-up.

The ads come even as McGrath, a former fighter pilot, has played up her military background and tried to sell herself as a politician who will work with both Republicans and Democrats.

“Amy’s positions on many things are pretty progressive,” Nickolas said. “Others are less so.”

On immigration, she has said she would support funding for a border wall if it meant a compromise that would give undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children a chance to become citizens. She often says she has no allegiance to Democratic Party leadership because they recruited Lexington Mayor Jim Gray into the primary.

“She’s trying to fool the people of Kentucky by talking conservative in the rural counties, sounding liberal in Lexington, and shouting she’s a leftist progressive in Massachusetts,” said Jodi Whitaker, the spokeswoman for the Barr campaign.

McGrath’s campaign has yet to launch an ad directly attacking Barr. Instead, she’s said she’s “calling B.S. on the usual way of responding” and released an ad taunting Barr, asking “is that all you’ve got?”

That hasn’t stopped the outside groups from going negative against Barr. VoteVets, a political action committee that supports veteran candidates, spent $156,000 on ads attacking Barr that will start airing Tuesday.

The ad attacks Barr for his support of the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, an effort that fell just short of passing the Senate last year.

“Congressman Barr’s enthusiastic about the special interests, voting for a plan the AARP says would impose an age tax charging older Americans up to five times more.” a narrator says.

Barr was an ardent supporter of the Republican plan, which he said would lower healthcare costs for many, and defended it at town hall events full of people angry about the plan, including the cuts it would make for people on Medicaid.

When asked about the ad, Whitaker re-framed Barr’s vote on the Republican health care bill into a vote on taxes.

“When it comes to taxes, no one believes that Amy McGrath would be better than Andy Barr, who voted to repeal dozens of Obamacare taxes, including the individual mandate tax, and voted for the largest tax cut in a generation,” Whitaker said.

The elimination of the individual mandate, which required people who didn’t have health insurance to pay a penalty, was contained in the health care bill that didn’t pass. Republicans later added it to the tax bill that successfully became law.