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6th District Congressional Candidates Square Off In Heated Debate

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Candidates for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District squared off in their only joint appearance ahead of this year’s election on Monday night. The hour-long televised debate on KET showed sharp differences on the issues and accusations of dishonest campaign tactics.

Early on, Democratic challenger Nancy Jo Kemper accused incumbent Republican Rep. Andy Barr of taking her words out of context in a commercial sponsored by his campaign.

"One of the principal problems that is wrong with Washington is the fundamental kind of dishonesty that this represents,” Kemper said of the ad.

Barr’s commercial juxtaposes a clip of Kemper saying that the country is on the “right track” with images of ISIS fighters. Kemper’s original comments had to do with economic data.

“My opponent, in fact, does believe and she has said that the country is on the 'right track,' she has enthusiastically embraced the policies of the last eight years,” Barr said in the debate. “We recognize that the country is on the wrong track.”

The 6th Congressional District includes Lexington and parts of central and Eastern Kentucky.

First elected in 2012, Barr is seeking his third term in Congress. Nancy Jo Kemper is a pastor and former executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches.

The candidates differ sharply over banking regulations, foreign policy and the Affordable Care Act.

During the debate, Kemper attacked Barr for not returning campaign funds to Wells Fargo after the banking giant admitted to secretly opening fake accounts under customers’ names.

“You have yet to return any of the money that they collected fraudulently from their customers that has been contributed to your campaign,” Kemper said. “I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t pass the smell test in my book.”

Barr has received $10,500 from Wells Fargo’s super PAC since 2013. He supports repealing most of the banking regulations created under the Dodd-Frank consumer protection law, saying they’ve created an avalanche of red tape that keeps small businesses and homeowners from getting loans.

Barr criticized Kemper’s position supporting the Iran nuclear agreement, which required Iran to dismantle most of its centrifuges that enrich uranium and open up to inspections.

“It converts Iran from the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with an illicit nuclear program into the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with an internationally sanctioned nuclear program,” Barr said.

Kemper argued that the deal makes the world safer.

Each candidate said they support their party’s nominee for president.

Kemper said the country “had not had a better-prepared person to be president and commander-in-chief in some time than Hillary Clinton.”

Barr didn’t mention Republican candidate Donald Trump by name, but he said the Republican ticket of Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence represents his views on foreign policy.

“Unfortunately Secretary Clinton has been the architect of the foreign policy that I’m criticizing,” Barr said.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.

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