Politics

Democrats trying to unseat Republican Congressman Andy Barr all embraced progressive policies like expanding health care, gun control and legalizing some form of marijuana use during a debate that aired live on KET Monday night, but they all distanced themselves from the party’s national leaders.

National Democrats see Kentucky’s 6th congressional district as one that might flip in their favor this November, hoping for a “blue wave” in reaction to President Trump and conservative policies advanced in the Republican-controlled Congress.

But when it comes to lining up behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, candidate Amy Mcgrath said she had “no love or allegiance” to the party’s leaders.

“The Democratic Party is seen to be led by San Francisco in Nancy Pelosi and New York City in Chuck Schumer,” McGrath said. “And you know, that’s not American. So as Democrats, we need to get that back.”

During next week’s primary elections, Democrats in the district have six candidates to choose from — Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, state Sen. Reggie Thomas and Lexington residents Daniel Kemph, Theodore David Green and Geoff Young.

Gray, who ran for Senate against incumbent Rand Paul last year, said “it’s time for leadership change and that includes Congresswoman Pelosi.”

Thomas said the party had “lost the heart of the heartland” and said Democrats needed to work to get votes in rural parts of the state.

“Let’s face it, here in this state the state Democratic Party is one of Lexington, Louisville and no where else,” Thomas said.

Candidates called for expanding access to health care, with Gray saying he wants Congress to “fix” the Affordable Care Act,” Thomas saying he wants to expand Medicaid into a “single-payer” system, and McGrath calling for a government-run insurance program that would compete with private insurers.

Whoever is elected will take on Barr and his $2.2 million campaign war chest. First elected in 2012, Barr serves on the House Financial Services Committee and chairs the Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee.

Barr has represented the 6th district since 2013 though Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district 305,185 to 211,545.

Last year, Barr held a series of town halls that were flooded with protesters opposing his stances on undoing the Affordable Care Act, cutting corporate taxes and repealing environmental regulations.

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