By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, said he will skip this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., to spend time in Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.
His opponent in the November general election, Republican Andy Barr of Lexington, accused Chandler on Thursday of trying to run away from President Barack Obama and his record of supporting Obama.
“Yesterday in Washington, Ben Chandler once again voted to save ObamaCare. Today in Kentucky, he’s running away from the Obama convention,” Barr said in a statement. “But no matter which way he wobbles, Ben Chandler can’t hide his record of supporting Barack Obama’s agenda nearly 80 percent of the time.”
Chandler’s spokeswoman, Meghan Groob, denied Barr’s claim that Chandler’s decision was due to Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky.
“The congressman will not be attending the national convention because he has a full schedule that week in the district,” Groob said. “Congress has been in session much of the summer and he feels he needs to be in the district. This has nothing to do with President Obama.”
Asked if Chandler supports Obama’s re-election, Groob said Chandler “doesn’t always agree with the policies of the Obama administration but he does support his re-election.”
Chandler was to attend the convention as an unpledged delegate, a designation for elected party officials. There will be no need to find a replacement for him.
Chandler and Barr are in a rematch to represent the 6th Congressional District. Chandler, who has represented the district since 2004, narrowly defeated Barr, an attorney, in 2010.
Chandler was an early supporter of Obama in the 2008 presidential election, but has not always agreed with the president. He voted against the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010, but has repeatedly voted against repealing the law.
State Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson said Chandler should “fully explain” to the people of the 6th District why he is not attending the convention. He added that every state Democratic official who attends the convention should explain if he or she is “supporting Obama or Kentucky. You can’t do both.”
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said last month that he does not always agree with Obama, particularly on coal issues, but he will support him as the party nominee for president at the national convention Sept. 3-6.
Beshear’s comments came as some Democratic officials from coal-producing states, including Democratic West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said they plan to boycott the national convention because of discontent with Obama’s energy policies.
Chandler is not the only candidate for Congress skipping his party’s national convention.
Virginia Senate candidate George Allen, who is trying to get his old job back, announced earlier this week that he will not attend the Republican National Convention so he can stay in Virginia to campaign, according to The Washington Post. Allen is in a tight battle with Tim Kaine, who left as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to run for the Senate.
Allen joins fellow Senate GOP nominee and Rep. Denny Rehberg, who is running in Montana against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, in not attending the RNC convention Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Fla., the newspaper reported.