Thursday, May 11, 2017

Citing Barr's vote for Republican health-care bill, Democrats in Sixth District try to drum up electoral opposition for him next year

Colmon Eldridge and Nancy Jo Kemper
talked after speaking at the event.
A Democratic-oriented political group is trying to drum up opposition for 6th District U.S. Rep. Garland "Andy" Barr, R-Lexington, citing his vote for the Republican health-care bill.

The first featured speaker at the kickoff event by The People's Campaign was Colmon Eldridge, an aide to then-Gov. Steve Beshear when the administration embraced Obamacare in 2014. Asked afterward if he might be a candidate, Eldridge said, "It's something I'm looking at."

Eldridge told a small group at The Campbell House in Lexington, "I like Andy Barr as a person. We go to the same church," The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. "If he does not have the courage to make this vote right, then we should send him packing. . . . This is life or death; this is wrong or right."

Barr's 2016 Democratic opponent, the Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, spoke next and said that if Barr does go to church, "I hope he goes to confession," because "He puts ends above means, he bears false witness."

Kemper said she wouldn't take on Barr again, but "Beating Andy Barr will be one of the major purposes of my life the next two years." The former head of the Kentucky Council of Churches, Kemper said afterward that she will retire as minister of New Union Christian Church on June 30.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr
Barr replied via email: "As a Christian, I try to avoid questioning other people's faith. But my faith teaches me to care about people. And that is exactly why I supported the American Health Care Act. Obamacare is driving up costs, limiting choices, and treating patients like a number in a bureaucracy instead of human beings. The bill I voted for will move us to a patient-centered model of care that will lower costs, expand choices, and provide multiple layers of protections for people with pre-existing conditions."

Barr said in a press release May 4, "After seven years of broken promises, lost coverage, skyrocketing premiums, thousands of pages of regulations, tax penalties, collapsing co-ops, fewer jobs, and state exchanges which are now in a death spiral of fewer choices and rising costs – the House of Representatives has taken a critical step in the process that will finally repeal and replace Obamacare," he said. "And we have done so in a way that provides multiple layers of protections for people with pre-existing conditions."

The bill would let states allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions if doing so would improve the state's insurance market. Kemper said Barr doesn't understand that a basic principle of insurance is spreading risk among a large number of people.

Barr told Kristin Kennedy of Lexington's WKYT-TV, "A lot of the feedback that we're getting fundamentally misunderstands what we're doing to protect people with pre-existing conditions." Kennedy reports, "The congressman says the American Health Care Act gives people with pre-existing conditions more options than they currently have."

The Rev. Clark Williams, chairman of The People's Campaign, said it is a tax-exempt group under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code and supported Democratic nominee Jack Conway in the 2015 governor's race and a few Democratic candidates for the state House last year. He said it plans to conduct an independent campaign against Barr next year but will not recruit candidates. "We want to continue to just create the buzz," he said.

Besides Eldridge, others who have been publicly mentioned as challengers to Barr are state Sen. Reginald Thomas, right, of Lexington and Lt. Col. Amy McGrath of Northern Kentucky, left, who has declined to comment until after she retires from the Marines on June 1.

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