The phrase ‘Close but no Cigar’ might have summed up Andy Barr’s attempt in 20-10 to secure a congressional seat. But, in his second attempt, the outcome amounted to a sound victory over incumbent Ben Chandler. Victory was sweet for Lexington attorney Andy Barr. Two years ago, the Republican lost to incumbent Democrat Ben Chandler by fewer than 700 votes. November 6th, 20-12 saw Barr win by eleven thousand votes…and that in a district redrawn to favor Democrats.
The victory called for a celebration and Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer last night kicked off the party.
“It’s my great honor to introduce to you, the new star of the Republican Party of Kentucky and your new congressman from central Kentucky, Andy Barr!” exclaimed Comer.
Barr says one key to victory was a tour he made of the district after its boundaries were redrawn by the state legislature. Lawmakers reworked it to favor the incumbent…including more Democrats and fewer Republicans. On that listening tour, Barr says he heard a lot about coal related job losses. So, he built the debate over coal into a game-winning strategy. Now, he says, wants to reach out to another set of Democrats…the Democrats who hold seats in Congress.
“I don’t think we have any choice. We have no choice we have to do that because the problems in this country are too great,” said Barr.
The congressman-elect asked supporters to remember and pray for Congressman Ben Chandler and his family. Barr says the Democrat offered to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
In conceding defeat, Chandler said his victory two years ago was a ‘little bit of miracle.’ Then he attributed this year’s defeat to President Obama…inferring he was a political liability that simply couldn’t be overcome.
“The Barr campaign did an excellent job strategically of attaching me to the President. Just about every ad that they ran attached me to the President and the President was clearly unpopular in central Kentucky with the exception of Fayette County,” added Chandler.
Already, there are questions about Chandler’s political future. As the grandson of a governor, the Democrat owns a name with great political value. There were questions about a possible run for governor, but Chandler says such thoughts are premature.
“Well about the future, well I’m still thinking about tonight. The future will be the future and we’ll see what happens,” said Chandler.
Chandler has one unsuccessful campaign for governor on his resume, when he lost in 2003 to Republican Ernie Fletcher.
Back at Barr’s victory celebration, Lexington businessman Warren Rodgers praised the Lexington lawyer…saying he’s the right man for the job.
“It’s great to have a person that understands the business community and understands what business people are going through in terms of taxes and burdensome regulations and all that,” said Rodgers.
Another republican who had a good night is Lexington lawmaker Stan Lee…who won re-election to the General Assembly. Lee says Barr’s victory sends an important message about the sixth congressional district. It’s not the property of any single party.
“This sixth district for the last 20 plus years has been seen as a swing district and for a republican to get it and hold it again is very significant because it’s not just a rock solid republican district,” said Lee.
The previous office holders in the central Kentucky district include former Governor Ernie Fletcher, who attended last night’s celebration, former Lexington Mayor Scotty Baesler, and Republican Larry Hopkins.