Kemper challenging Barr for U.S. rep
Published 11:42 am Monday, October 24, 2016
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr graduated from Lexington’s Henry Clay High School in 1992, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in government and philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1996 and received his law degree from the University of Kentucky in 2001.
Barr is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Lexington, a member of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and has served on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden and Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky.
He and his wife, Carol, have two daughters, Eleanor, 3, and Mary Clay, 1.
Barr first took the oath of office as the U.S. Rep. for Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District on Jan. 3, 2013.
NANCY JO KEMPER
A consistent champion for social justice in Kentucky, Nancy Jo Kemper possesses a life-long commitment to bringing people together to find common sense solutions for the common good. Known for her eloquence and passion, Kemper has spent her career serving as both a pastor and as the executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches.
The many struggles she’s overcome in her life, including raising two daughters as a single mother, have only increased her compassion and her dedication to helping those in need.
If elected, Kemper will be the first Democratic congresswoman to ever serve Kentucky.
The coal industry in eastern Kentucky has been suffering in recent years. What should be done to keep the industry alive or what can take its place?
AB: For too long the federal government has focused on destroying the coal industry. This has caused thousands of Kentuckians to lose their jobs, an increase in electricity costs and devastation to our coal communities.
I have fought the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to ban coal mining in Eastern Kentucky and throughout Appalachia, as well as the regulatory assault that threatens the use of coal-fired electricity throughout this country, which are killing jobs and driving up electric rates.
I cosponsored and voted for the Ratepayer Protection Act which would force the EPA to withdraw its new regulations on existing coal powered plants, and would give states flexibility to comply with new rules if they would have an adverse effect on the electric rates paid by consumers.
I also cosponsored and voted for the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act which would reform the regulatory process to give Congress the ability to stop these type of burdensome regulations before they go into effect.
As long as I am in Congress, I will use my voice to fight for this industry that is so critical to maintaining Kentucky jobs and preserving some of the lowest utility rates in the nation.
NK: The challenges facing Kentucky’s coal industry are largely irreversible and inevitable. Although my opponent sells false hope by pretending that we can bring the industry back by getting rid of environmental protections, the truth is that the natural-gas boom, reduced demand from China, and the discovery of more productive coal seams in western states have all inevitably combined to make Kentucky coal less cost-effective.
The shame of the false hope that my opponent sells is that it denies new hopes and opportunities to a region that desperately needs help. Many of these families have sacrificed their land, health and even lives to power our entire state’s economy, and they have very little left to show for it now.
We owe them a great debt, but we can’t pay that debt until we acknowledge the reality of the situation.
It’s past time to start building a new diversified economy for Eastern Kentucky, including investments in education, infrastructure (including tech infrastructure such as reliable internet and cellular connectivity), tourism and community development.
Eastern Kentucky and her people still have a lot to offer the world, but they need some real support from our political leaders instead of worn-out political talking points.
Poverty is still prevalent in Kentucky, particularly in the eastern part. What remedies remain and how would you pursue implementing those?
AB: Washington has made many promises, created many programs, and spent trillions of taxpayer dollars fighting poverty. Yet today in America, if you’re born in poverty, you’re as likely to remain in poverty as you were 50 years ago.
The problem with many of our welfare programs is that while they’ve helped people cope with poverty, they haven’t helped people escape poverty. That’s because our welfare system is designed to replace work, rather than encourage work.
That is why my colleagues and I have worked through the Republican Study Committee’s Empowerment Initiative to conduct a comprehensive review of federal anti-poverty programs. This has informed the House Republican plan, which we call the “Better Way to Fight Poverty.”
Our plan is guided by the aspiration that federal programs should empower poor Americans to achieve self-sufficiency, dignity and upward mobility through work. And requiring able-bodied, working-age people to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving benefits has proven highly effective in increasing employment and reducing poverty rates.
Through work, we can do more than merely alleviate some of the symptoms of poverty; we can offer something no government program ever can: hope, dignity and upward mobility.
NK: Recruiting new businesses and building a diversified economy unfortunately takes time, and our political leaders should have started on this years ago. The investments I support in education and infrastructure are vital to building a new economy for eastern Kentucky. It’s much easier to recruit new businesses into an area with adequate transportation and communication infrastructure, and with an educated and well-trained work force. Tourism opportunities range for promoting our beautiful natural land (like Red River Gorge, which can draw people in from around the nation) to developing a Nascar track to draw fans in from surrounding states and regions. I’m glad to see hemp experiencing a revitalization in our Commonwealth, which could be an agricultural boon for our smaller counties. Economic revitalization can unfortunately be a slow process, so it’s important in the meantime that we raise the minimum wage and to protect social safety nets like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, and substance abuse programs so that Kentucky families can keep their heads above water while we build long-term solutions to these long-standing problems.
If my opponent succeeds in undermining those vital social programs then more Kentucky families will suffer.
Cooperation among parties in Washington seems to be nearly non-existent. What can be done so both sides can work together and serve the people?
AB: For the last four years, I have regularly attended a bipartisan breakfast in Washington. During these meetings, members have the opportunity to share their ideas which provides an opportunity to identify common interests, concerns and agreement. I find that when we listen to each other, we can find areas to work together without violating our principles.
For example, I have worked with Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) to ensure Americans have access to manufactured housing.
I have co-sponsored legislation with Rep. Marica Fudge (D-OH), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, to incorporate the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park into the National Park Service. I have proposed legislation with Rep. John Carney to protect consumers’ credit scores from medical debt.
And notably, I have co-chaired the bipartisan Congressional Horse Caucus with Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY). Through a mutual interest in the equine industry, we have found common ground with members from around the country. We introduced the Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act, which now has more than 50 co-sponsors from across the country and political spectrum from Tea Party conservatives, to liberal democrats.
By listening to each other and finding common ground, we can achieve more for the American people.
NK: I think one of the reasons our voter turnout is so relatively low is because of the growing nastiness of our political process. Rather than giving voters reasons to support good candidates, we too often focus on vilifying our opponents with over-the-top political and personal attacks. I obviously think it’s important to call out my opponent’s positions and record, because his positions on issues like the minimum wage and consumer protections impact the very real lives of his constituents who need help, but I refuse to stoop to personal attacks in order to score political points.
My life-long mission has been to build bridges with people of different beliefs and values, creating communities of care and trust. It’s important that we remember as a society how to disagree with each other while still respecting each other.
When we vilify entire parties or perspectives, then that makes it very difficult to work together after the heat of the election cools off. My years of service as a minister have given me a wealth of experience when it comes to working with people of vastly different perspectives, and I’m looking forward to bringing a little healing to a broken Congress.
What are the biggest challenges facing the commonwealth and how are you uniquely qualified to address them?
AB: After being elected to Congress, I launched an accessibility initiative to make sure that I was hearing directly from the people of central and eastern Kentucky. In meeting with Kentuckians and listening to their concerns, ideas and opinions for the last four years, I have become incredibly well-informed about the needs of Kentuckians, the challenges they face and how federal policy affects them.
The top concern I hear from Kentuckians is the growing epidemic of drugs, especially heroin in our communities. I formed the Sixth District Drug Abuse Task to get feedback and recommendations from those working on the front lines of this epidemic in Kentucky. I then took those recommendations to Washington, where many of them were included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act which has now been signed into law.
We also need to make sure that federal policy is encouraging private sector economic and job growth. We can achieve this through smart energy policies, comprehensive tax reform, regulatory reform and by fixing federal anti-poverty programs to help people back to work. This will also specifically benefit Kentucky’s signature industries including bourbon distilling, horses, agriculture and auto-manufacturing and the thousands of people they employ.
NK: Many of the problems we face as a Commonwealth are rooted in the fact that too many of our elected officials and policies value wealthy corporate special interests more than the lives of real people.
Rather than opposing a minimum wage increase in favor of higher corporate profits, we need leaders who will put people first. Rather than protecting company profits from consumer and environmental protection laws, we need leaders who fight to protect their constituents from predatory lenders and industrial pollution. Rather than cutting our social safety net in favor of corporate tax breaks, we need leaders who are dedicated to protecting vital programs like Social Security and Medicare.
In short, we need to prioritize human need over corporate greed. Over my years as faith leader and advocate for social justice, I’ve demonstrated my commitment to helping everyday people come together and lift each other up even when opposed by powerful special interests, and I’m prepared to be a representative of the people, by the people, and for the people.