Democrats in the 6th Congressional District have a tough decision but can’t go wrong.
Three Democrats in the May 22 primary bring impressive bios and together exemplify a diversity that should make the district proud. If Democrats take the House, any of the three — Jim Gray, Amy McGrath, Reggie Thomas — could quickly become standouts.
We endorse Lexington Mayor Gray based on his record. Gray’s experience leading city government and helping build a family business into a global concern, plus the many bonds he has forged with individuals and institutions in Kentucky, would serve the district well.
Gray is not the smoothest, doesn’t speak in sound bites. He is deliberative, data-driven, moderate — qualities that Congress sorely needs. He’s done an exemplary job in almost 12 years as mayor or vice mayor, solving problems by innovating and working with stakeholders. He builds consensus on tough community issues, ranging from police and fire pensions to the removal of downtown Confederate statues.
Like any city, Lexington has problems. Atop the list, the opioid epidemic is spawning violence and dysfunction. Also, says Gray, despite low unemployment, too many working people are economically insecure. Gray would bring firsthand knowledge of theses challenges and a message that a “rising middle class is the backbone of America,” but threatened by Republican policies.
Democrats have much to like in Gray. He’s named women to high posts, including fire chief, a Lexington first. Lexington had one of Kentucky’s first needle exchanges and will soon be the nation’s largest gigabit city. (Other places in the 6th could use someone in Congress working to bring them high-speed internet.)
Washington also needs the kind of conscience Gray exercised upon becoming mayor; he opted not to raise money to recoup the $900,000 he had loaned his campaign. Donors were lining up, but he wanted to avoid “any perception” of government for sale. He promises to work for a constitutional amendment undoing the Supreme Court decisions that are poisoning democracy with unlimited money.
Gray’s lifelong interest in government — as an 18-year-old he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention — is an asset. Gray Construction managed hundreds of industrial building sites, including Toyota in Scott County. Gray still made time to serve — on the Berea College board, for example, and leading a 1993 study of how to make state government more efficient. To marvel at how far we’ve come, consider: One of the first openly gay Kentuckians to win public office is now knocked as “establishment.”
Thomas, a state senator and attorney, also has a long, impressive record of community involvement and public service and a genuine interest in everyone he meets. He supports progressive positions such as an increase in minimum wage, single-payer health care, more gun-safety laws and the legalizing of medical marijuana. His personal outreach across the district is refreshing and unifying. Though he is far behind competitors in fund-raising, Thomas has much to offer and important work ahead, no matter how this race turns out.
Lt. Col. McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot who taught at the Naval Academy, is a phenom. She ran in response to Donald Trump’s election, is part of a wave of women candidates and also one of the military vets who want to protect their country from being dragged into another war under false pretenses as she says happened in Iraq. McGrath’s urgency and intellect are formidable. So are her command of the issues and her ability to communicate. She’s a huge asset to Kentucky and should continue to seek ways to serve because she has a lot to offer.
Dark-horse Daniel Kemph also should stay involved. The native Californian, whose job managing information technology projects allows him to work anywhere, and who chooses Lexington, felt he had to do more than volunteer and give money after Trump’s victory. He has immersed himself in the issues but is not running a competitive campaign.
Also on the ballot but running limited campaigns are Theodore David Green and Geoffrey M. “Geoff” Young.
Unendorsed candidates have until noon Wednesday to submit a 250-word response.