Politics & Government

Education advocate Elisabeth Jensen to challenge U.S. Rep. Andy Barr

Elisabeth Jensen
Elisabeth Jensen

FRANKFORT — Longtime education advocate Elisabeth Jensen has launched a campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Rep Andy Barr in Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District.

Jensen, a Democrat and director of the Lexington-based Race for Education, said she decided to challenge Barr, a freshman congressman who faces re-election in 2014, because she thinks young people and families need better representation in Washington.

The 19-county district includes Lexington.

"I think Congress is not working and we need something different," Jensen said. "I think we need a voice for families and children and I don't think we have that right now. I think I can be that voice."

Jensen, a Lexington resident who has one son, is making her first run for public office. She is a 2011 graduate of Emerge Kentucky, a leadership class designed to encourage more Democratic women to run for public office.

She has volunteered in campaigns for several Democratic candidates, including Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, who lost to Barr in 2012. She was an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

Jensen, 48, said she would announce more details about her campaign, including her campaign staff, on Tuesday.

Barr, a Lexington attorney, defeated Chandler by 11,786 votes in 2012 after narrowly losing to Chandler in 2010. A spokeswoman for Barr said the congressman was concentrating on doing his job, not running for re-election.

"Andy is not focused on politics, he is focused on doing the job the people of the 6th District elected him to do in Congress just a few short months ago," said Catherine Gatewood, a spokeswoman for Barr.

Jensen declined to say how much money she hoped to raise in the campaign, but said she was confident she would match Barr's fundraising. Her first fundraiser is scheduled July 8.

Barr raised more than $2 million during his 2012 race against Chandler and has $314,779 in his campaign coffers, according to a March report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

A native of Indiana, Jensen has spent the past decade leading Race for Education, a nonprofit that provides scholarships and focuses on literacy and other education initiatives, including financial literacy for college students.

Improving education and strengthening workforce development would be a key platform in her campaign, Jensen said.

"There is a direct link between improved education attainment and economic status in this state," Jensen said.

Before starting Race for Education, Jensen worked for WinStar Farm, Walt Disney Corp. and Gitano, a jeans company. She has a degree in design and merchandising from what is now the Wood Tobé-Coburn School in New York.