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Barr, Hicks Duke It Out In Testy Debate

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Candidates for Kentucky's 6th District congressional seat sparred over the pandemic response, racial justice, and their backgrounds on the CW Lexington Monday night.

Incumbent Republican Andy Barr and challenger Josh Hicks traded jabs in a rapid-fire, contentious debate that often veered into shouting matches. The candidates rehashed a number of disputes that have, until now, been reserved for attack ads - including an ongoing feud over coverage for preexisting conditions.

"They don't have a plan. There's no plan to replace this," Hicks said, faulting Republicans with focusing on dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The Democrat went on to accuse Barr of selling out constituents to health insurers and corporations while "doing their bidding in Washington, D.C."

Barr countered that Obama-era health reforms aren't the only option.

"They think the only way you can protect people with pre-existing conditions is to support a law that doubled and tripled premiums, that forced people to lose their choices of doctors, that hurt the very people that struggle with pre-existing conditions," the four-term congressman said.

Sparks also flew on the subject of racism and policing, with Barr asking Hicks, a former law enforcement officer, whether he filed a complaint "over the racism he witnessed."

Hicks responded, "I didn't witness racism when I was a police officer, you understand? Systemic racism means that we have a system that treats people differently."

Several themes continually resurfaced throughout the hour-long debate. Barr stressed his work on bipartisan legislation and sought to tie his opponent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while Hicks frequently cast his opponent as a career politician who has failed to deliver on promises.

While little time was spent uncovering common ground, both expressed confidence in Kentucky's compromise voting plan, which will enable each candidate's supporters to vote early, absentee, or on Election Day.

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.