Politics

The chair of the Democratic National Committee said that Republican leaders are fighting against the interests of Kentuckians by trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez said the recent failure of the Republican effort to replace the ACA shows that ordinary Americans are finally speaking out.

“You saw an absolute collision between their alternative world of falsehoods and the reality on the ground,” Perez said during an interview Tuesday afternoon. “Talk to Republican House members who are scared to death to do town hall meetings because they’ve got their constituents showing up saying ‘Hey what the heck are you doing trying to take away my lifeline?’”

Perez and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stopped in Louisville Tuesday as part of their national tour called “Come Together and Fight Back.”

Kentucky’s U.S. senators — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul — have been two of the nation’s leading advocates against the ACA.

Perez said that Democrats need to stress economic and healthcare issues to win back rural voters who supported Donald Trump and other Republicans in recent years.

“Our big tent is big enough to accommodate people who have viewpoint diversity on a number of issues,” he said.

The state’s Republicans have successfully campaigned against the Affordable Care Act in recent years — Gov. Matt Bevin won his 2015 election promising to scrap the state health exchange, Kynect, and scale back the Medicaid expansion.

Kentucky is Republican turf, politically speaking. The party controls both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats, four out of five congressional seats, the governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature.

Republican Party of Kentucky communications director Tres Watson said Perez and Sanders’ trip will “remind Kentuckians why they’ve elected more and more Republicans.”

“Kentuckians have roundly rejected the ultra-liberal, anti-jobs platform of coastal elites like Sanders and Perez,” Watson said in a statement. “The national Democrats’ embrace of these policies has resulted in tremendous growth for the Republican Party here in Kentucky.”

Kentucky also voted in favor of Trump during last year’s presidential election by one of the widest margins in the country. He won a majority of votes in all but two of Kentucky’s 120 counties — though Hillary Clinton won the two most populous counties.

Republicans also secured a majority of seats in both chambers of the state legislature for the first time ever last year.

Meanwhile, more than 500,000 Kentuckians have gotten health insurance through the Affordable Care Act since it was implemented in 2013, helping bring the state’s uninsured rate down from more than 20 percent to about 7 percent.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.