Barr points out ‘wide differences’ with his opponent
The closeness of this race has not taken Barr by surprise, he said, because of the ideological, economic and geographical diversity of the 6th Congressional District.
Barr said one of his objectives to retain that seat has been to point out the fundamental differences between him and his opponent – “and there are wide differences between me and my opponent.”
During an interview with The Woodford Sun earlier this month, Barr said it’s important for the voters to know where both candidates stand on the issues.
So when McGrath told “her liberal donors” in Massachusetts “that she is further left, more progressive than anyone in the state of Kentucky, I think my constituents in Midway and in Versailles deserve to know that,” said Barr.
Asked about allegations that his campaign’s ads have taken McGrath’s words out of context, Barr responded, “She said it, it’s her own words. If she wants to clarify something, we invite clarification.
“How did we take it out of context? When she says … I’m further left, more progressive than anyone in the state of Kentucky. That’s fine. I invite her to provide the context.”
While some have referred to his campaign’s negative ads against McGrath, Barr said he’s been attacked with “a totally false” narrative that he wants to take health care away from people. “Or the tax cuts that I voted for only help the wealthy – that’s just total nonsense,” he said.
The congressman argued that this is “the most productive, effective, result-oriented, action-oriented term of congress that I’ve served in.” So he’s also running on his record and positive economic news for the country.
“This is the best economy in a generation. It is the lowest unemployment, the highest consumer confidence … The fundamentals of this economy are terrific and you see it in terms of the data – unemployment is down, wages are up and the prosperity of the American people is sky high,” said Barr, a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
Asked to share his thoughts about President Donald Trump’s record, Barr said, “Clearly, I’m an ally of this administration. I have voted with this administration and support this administration on tax cuts, on deregulation, on reforms to Dodd-Frank to deliver relief to community banks, rebuilding the military, and on reforming the VA (Veterans Administration), and tackling the opioid epidemic.”
Barr said he’s also supportive of the President’s objectives on international trade and was encouraged by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which is poised to replace NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
Asked to define his own politics, Barr described himself as “a governing conservative.”
“I’m pro-life. I’m for the Second Amendment. I’m for secure borders. I’m for tax cuts. I’m for limited government. I’m for cutting the deficit.
I’m for cutting spending. I’m for a strong national defense. I’m a conservative, and I’m an unapologetic conservative,” said Barr. “But I am a pragmatist … someone who recognizes that it’s important to listen to other points of views.”
Growing up, Barr said he liked art in grade school and doing architectural designs. “I really enjoyed that,” he explained, “and I really thought – when I was in junior high school – I might follow an artistic path and go into architecture.”
Those aspirations were derailed when Barr joined the debate team at Henry Clay High School in Lexington. Driven by his interest in social studies and history, he started debating public policy in high school and really enjoyed that.
Interestingly, Barr said his father was a Democrat and his mother was a Republican. “They’re both Republicans now,” he added. “My father was one of those Kentucky Democrats who really was a Republican … My father really didn’t change, but the Democratic Party has changed.
“… They’re both conservative in their outlook, and so that had an influence on me certainly.” The values they passed onto him included living within your means and hard work and a free enterprise system, he said.
“The other thing that I think informed my conservatism was my education,” said Barr.
He continued his education at the University of Virginia, founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson as “a public university designed to advance human knowledge, educate leaders and cultivate an informed citizenry,” according to its website.
“In virtually every class – whether you’re a chemistry major or a history major or an English major – the influence of Thomas Jefferson looms large in your undergraduate education and your experience,” said Barr.
“That,” he continued, “took me to the roots of the founding of our country, and studying about American history and American political thought …”
At the University of Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in government and philosophy in 1996, Barr said he gained an appreciation for the separation of powers and the idea of limited government “being the key to a human flourishing.”
Barr said his experiences as an undergraduate ultimately took him to Washington, D.C., where he spent two years as an intern for U.S. Congressman Jim Talent, before he earned his law degree at the University of Kentucky in 2001.
After starting a career in private practice, Barr said, “Politics kept coming back to me.”
He credited Democrat Steve Beshear, then managing partner of the law firm where he was employed, for encouraging him to pursue a job in Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration. “And when he (Beshear) defeated Ernie four years later, I told … the new governor, ‘I credit you for getting me into Frankfort and I also credit you for getting me out of Frankfort.’
“… I went back to private practice and then I ultimately decided to run for Congress in 2010.”
“I was compelled to run,” he explained, “because I wanted to make a difference. I was dissatisfied with the direction of the country back in 2010.”
Barr ultimately lost to Ben Chandler (whose family owns the Sun), but defeated the incumbent two years later and has been representing Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District since January 2013.
Reflecting on his five-plus years in the United States House of Representatives, Barr said, “In this term of Congress, we’ve achieved so much and we’ve finally turned the corner and had accomplished many of the goals that I set out to achieve, including putting policies in place that would produce robust economic opportunity for my constituents …,” alluding to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – an overhaul of the nation’s tax code that has been lauded by Republicans, but criticized by Democrats.
Barr said he disagrees with a commonly-held belief that compromise no longer happens among members of the two political parties.
“To be fair,” Barr acknowledged, “Washington and the country are polarized. But there’s a lot more bipartisanship and friendships across the aisle than the media bothers to report.” He cited bipartisan investments in medical research and other initiatives, as well as sanctions on North Korean.
“The hot button issues of the day get talked about a lot – Russia, tax cuts, Obamacare …,” said Barr, “but the day to day work of Congress is incredibly bipartisan…”
Barr said he and Congressman Jimmy Panetta, a California Democrat, belong to a bipartisan breakfast group that meets weekly, and they spent time together this summer in Kentucky visiting “the signature industries of the 6th District.”
“That’s why I’m a member of this bipartisan breakfast group,” said Barr, “to kind of keep reaching across the aisle and try to show that we can work together as a country.”
Barr said he has also witnessed instances where “ideological purity overrides progress … and has undermined Congresses ability to pass a pragmatic solution like on immigration…”