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Barr, Kemper Spar Over Country's Direction

Josh James
Candidates for Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, Democrat Nancy Jo Kemper (left) and Republican inbumbent Andy Barr (right) squared off on KET Monday night.

6th District Congressional hopefuls Andy Barr and Nancy Jo Kemper uncovered little common ground in their first televised match-up on KET Monday night.

Dispensing with the pleasantries early on, the contenders immediately took aim at each others’ positions on banking regulation, Guantanamo Bay, and the Affordable Care Act. Labeling an ad by the second term Republican “dishonest,” Kemper repeatedly painted Barr as a lawmaker in the pocket of Wall Street – a claim the congressman vigorously denied.

But it was a question on the minimum wage that sparked a particularly testy exchange.

"The minimum wage job is a stepping stone," Barr said. "Most of the people on the minimum wage are teenagers. It's an internship where they're acquiring skills."

"No, no, no," Kemper interrupted. "Most of the people on minimum wage are working single moms and I've been there. I know what that's about."

While presidential politics made brief appearances throughout the hour, Barr kept his focus on the Republican agenda, arguing President Obama has diminished the country’s military readiness, emboldened enemies abroad, and generally reduced U.S. standing in the world.

"Our foreign policy is failing at every turn – eight years of broken promises, concessions, and retreat," he charged.

Meanwhile, Kemper defended Obama's record and stuck largely to domestic issues like improving federal health reforms and reining in corporations.

"Somehow Congressman Barr wants us to think that he's standing between Kentucky and terrorists and there are far more important things that our people need," she said.

With just over two weeks remaining before the election, both have just one more scheduled joint appearance on the calendar – a forum in Winchester on Thursday.

On the Issues

Wells Fargo...

BARR (in post-debate interview): "When we found out that there was fraud committed by this institution, what did I do? I prioritized the interests of my constituents. My oversight revealed that there had been over 600 - potentially 600 - fraudulent accounts by people in Kentucky."

KEMPER: "In fact, what [Barr] wanted to do was remove the cop on the beat that caught and found Wells Fargo guilty."

Donald Trump...

BARR (in post-debate interview): "I've said repeatedly that Mr. Trump's gutter talk is unacceptable, it's obnoxious, it is indefensible, but this election is larger than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This election is about the American people. This election is about the future of our country. It's about the Supreme Court. It's about national security. It's about keeping the American people safe."

KEMPER: "I would not describe Donald Trump as a clear-eyed, conscientious man of considerable thought who could have his finger on the nuclear buttons. This is not the man I want conducting our foreign policy. He's impulsive. He's vulgar. He's not an adequate representative of the awe at which we ought to hold this great office."

The Affordable Care Act...

BARR: "All of the headlines in the newspapers right now are that there is a massive exodus of commercial insurers from the exchanges. The co-opts have collapsed in 23 of the states, including Kentucky's."

KEMPER: "Yes, insurance companies are pulling out, but you know what? That's because they are greedy and not looking after their patients."

Correction: The original version of this story referred to Rep. Andy Barr as a freshmen lawmaker. He is finishing his second term.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.