Endorsement: Elisabeth Jensen in 6th District


In his first term, Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr has excelled at self-promotion and collecting money from the financial industry.

He also has teamed up with Democrats to sponsor legislation, including bills that would free rural and small banks from lending restrictions aimed at avoiding another massive bank bailout. Another would shield physicians from malpractice claims when they follow evidence-based standards of care.

Barr also is one of the House's far-right ideologues. He voted a year ago for the government shutdown that drained $24 billion from the economy. He voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy victims and defended as "compassionate" his vote to slash food stamps because it would push people out of dependency. The vast majority of food stamp recipients live in households with children, seniors or disabled individuals.

Democrat Elisabeth Jensen's positions are more in line with this editorial board's and also with the needs and priorities of the 6th District.

Also compelling is the life experience Jensen would add to Congress, which already has enough lawyers in suits.

A Hoosier by birth, Jensen, who turns 50 on Oct. 20, launched her career on an apparel-factory floor. She was a manager for jeans-maker Gitano and the Walt Disney Corp.'s clothing line. She knows what it takes to market a product and manage a budget and work force.

She's a problem-solver. After she moved to Kentucky almost 15 years ago to work in the Thoroughbred industry, her employer wanted to support the education of farm workers' children. From that desire grew a non-profit, The Race for Education, that Jensen founded and leads. It has provided $5 million in scholarships and support for education. She also started after-school tutoring for students in Fayette and Bourbon counties.

The mother of a special-needs child, Jensen would bring that useful perspective to Congress as well.

Barr, 41, an attorney, worked in the Ernie Fletcher administration and has also taught college courses. He beat Democratic incumbent Ben Chandler in 2012 in part by portraying him as an enemy of coal miners.

On the issues, Jensen supports increasing the minimum wage; Barr does not.

Jensen vows to protect the access to health care that more than a half-million Kentuckians are receiving through Kynect and expanded Medicaid, made possible by the Affordable Care Act. Barr says the ACA is having terrible consequences for health care and the economy and should be repealed or overhauled.

Jensen sees a bigger role for government in supporting education and infrastructure development and would pay for it by closing tax loopholes.

In the area where Barr has the most clout, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Jensen is focused on protecting consumers while Barr's overriding interest is reducing government regulation.

Barr, for example, is trying to block a Justice Department crackdown on the practice of online payday lenders making illegal, unauthorized withdrawals from borrowers' bank accounts, often causing overdrafts.

Barr had taken in $334,666 from finance and Wall Street interests, including payday lenders, as of June 30, helping give his campaign a huge funding advantage.

Jensen doesn't just criticize Barr. She's looking for solutions to the need for affordable banking options and non-predatory short-term credit. She touts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's plan, modeled on the British system, to provide basic banking services through post offices, which already are in more places than banks.

Jensen would serve the 6th District as a practical, compassionate advocate. Voters should send her to Congress.

The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Wednesday.