Republican Andy Barr has matured during his four years in Congress and seems to have moderated since joining Tea Partiers in 2013 on a symbolic vote that shut down the government for two weeks.
Barr works hard to be visible in the district and is attentive to his constituents, though he turned down most invitations to meet Democratic challenger Nancy Jo Kemper in public forums. Barr makes himself accessible to the Herald-Leader editorial board and, though we often disagree, doesn’t mind the debate.
Barr has a huge money advantage. He has raised $2.32 million vs. $418, 412 by Kemper. Barr’s war chest has been fattened by the financial industry, which he is in a position to help because of his seat on the House Committee on Financial Services. Barr is using that advantage to air an indefensibly deceptive (even by today’s standards) attack on Kemper that makes it look as if she applauds terrorism.
While Barr’s experience and enthusiasm recommend him, the policies that he supports are bad for the Kentuckians who live in the 6th District and the country. Barr has staked out positions that would result in more consumers being exploited by lenders and financial advisers, fewer people having access to health care and birth control and more criminals obtaining guns through loopholes.
Voters have a stronger alternative in Kemper, a Yale Divinity School graduate who headed the Kentucky Council of Churches for 18 years beginning in 1991. She still pastors Union Christian Church in rural Woodford County.
Kemper is making her first run for elective office but her experience gives her the skills to be effective in the U.S. House, even as part of the minority party. And, with women making up just under 20 percent of Congress, Kemper would be another needed voice for an underrepresented majority of the population.
As head of the Council of Churches, Kemper helped build consensus on tough public issues among members whose beliefs often conflicted, then she took their case to the legislature and governor, giving her a strong understanding of how lawmaking and government work.
A single mother, she also displays a deeper understanding than Barr of the struggles of average people and how government can help. One example is the minimum wage, which Kemper says Congress should increase.
Barr opposes an increase — without even knowing who would be affected. Barr is touting a report on how to combat poverty that he co-authored. But, on KET, Barr inaccurately claimed that most minimum-wage earners are teens gaining job skills.
In fact, 80 percent of minimum-wage earners are 20 or older and many are women working in retail and food or caring for other people’s elderly relatives and children. Paying them enough that they no longer qualify for food stamps and Medicaid would directly combat poverty.
Kemper, who called out Barr on his error and pointed out that many families depend on minimum-wage earners, also has a better understanding of what’s at stake as Congress inevitably deals with health-care costs. She would defend consumer protections and curbs on the kind of Wall Street recklessness that led to the 2008 economic crash. She also advocates cleaning up campaign finance, saying “the size of your wallet shouldn’t determine your voice in a democracy.”
Barr, who wants regulatory changes that could recreate the conditions that led to the 2008 crash, should strike a more independent course and seek information and insights beyond the House GOP orbit.
On his signature issue — relief from a new rule that blocks small banks from making mortgage loans based solely on their knowledge of the borrower and market — Barr should resolve to push through a clean bill. Kemper and many Democrats already in Congress support exempting banks with up to $10 billion in assets from the rule, which would include all community banks.
The hangup apparently has been that Republicans want to use small banks as cover to push through a more dramatic rollback that also would free the largest banks from rules enacted to prevent a repeat of the 2008 crash.
Barr, if re-elected, could prove his independence by convincing his fellow Republicans to approve a clean bipartisan bill providing mortgage lending relief for community banks.
In this election, we urge voters to support Kemper.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by 2 p.m. Friday.