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Elisabeth Jensen officially enters 6th Congressional District race

Democrat Elisabeth Jensen of Lexington]By Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT – Democrat Elisabeth Jensen of Lexington made her campaign for Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District official Tuesday.

Jensen, director of the Lexington-based Race for Education, filed her campaign papers with the secretary of state’s office to run for the seat next year.

Signing her papers were state Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, and her campaign treasurer, Laura D’Angelo.

Jensen hopes to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, who captured the seat in 2012 from Democrat Ben Chandler.

The 19-county district includes Lexington.

Jensen is making her first run for public office. She is a 2011 graduate of Emerge Kentucky, a leadership class designed to encourage more Democratic women to run for public office.

She has volunteered in campaigns for several Democratic candidates, including Gov. Steve Beshear and Chandler. She was an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

A native of Indiana, Jensen has spent the past decade leading Race for Education, a nonprofit that provides scholarships and focuses on literacy and other education initiatives, including financial literacy for college students.

Before starting Race for Education, Jensen worked for WinStar Farm, Walt Disney Corp. and Gitano, a jeans company. She has a degree in design and merchandising from what is now the Wood Tobé-Coburn School in New York.

Retired Lexington engineer Geoff Young filed to seek the Democratic nomination on Dec. 3. Young worked for 13 years as an assistant director in what is now called the Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence. He has a bachelors degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts. He also has a master’s degree in agriculture economics from the University of Kentucky.

Lexington attorney Michael L. Coblenz said Tuesday he is considering entering the race as a Democrat.

With a Tea Party voting record, Andy Barr works overtime on constituent outreach

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-LexingtonBy Sam Youngman

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr could only laugh in response when Jane Friedman of Lexington stood up at his town hall in Winchester last week.

“You’re not under a rock like your predecessor was,” Friedman said.

Barr’s predecessor, of course, was former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, and Barr seems determined to avoid his fate, making constituent outreach a focus as he aims for re-election next year.

Barr did 20 events in the 6th Congressional District last week, touring Ale-8-One, taking questions from University of Kentucky students about the National Security Agency and attending town halls like the one in Winchester.

“I’m not really focused on what other people did or didn’t do,” Barr told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week. “That’s not why I’m doing it. It makes me a better representative. Frankly, it’s my favorite part of the job.”

In a district where registered Democrats outweigh Republicans 59 percent to 33 percent, Barr might well need to put in the hours and the miles to offset a voting record that mirrors his Tea Party colleagues in the U.S. House.

Joe Palumbo withdraws from Central Kentucky congressional race

Democrat Joe Palumbo of LexingtonBy Sam Youngman

Lexington businessman Joe Palumbo has decided to withdraw from the Democratic primary race for the 6th District U.S. House seat held by Republican Andy Barr.

Palumbo, the son of longtime state Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his family and his business are his top priorities, and he doesn’t think now is the time to start a political career.

“After discussing it with my wife, Jennifer, we decided at this time that it would be best to focus on our responsibilities at home, with our two young children, and at Palumbo Lumber, where we have almost 50 full-time employees,” Palumbo said.

The Palumbos have an 8-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.

Palumbo said he and his wife “still plan to work hard to do what we can to make this great community even better.”

Palumbo pledged to “support and do what I can to help whoever wins the Democratic primary.”

Palumbo’s exit from the race means that education advocate Elisabeth Jensen is the likely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.

Jensen said in a statement that she hopes to get support from Palumbo “as we join forces in becoming part of a Congress that works.”

She said her campaign will focus on bringing a “solutions-based approach to Congress.”

“Instead of kicking children and families off of SNAP benefits, and shutting down the government as a political ploy, we need to be focusing on education and workforce development to create opportunities for Kentucky’s working families,” Jensen said.

Other Democrats who have said they intend to seek the party’s nomination include Lexington lawyer Michael Coblenz and retired engineer Geoff Young.

Whoever advances from the Democratic primary faces a significant cash disadvantage against Barr, who had almost $1 million in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter.

Palumbo outpaced Jensen in the third quarter, raising more than $95,000 and lending his campaign an additional $50,000 since entering the race in mid-July. Palumbo’s $145,000 topped the more than $51,000 Jensen raised, bringing her total since entering the race in mid-June to more than $125,000.

Palumbo didn’t rule out a future run on either the state or federal levels.

“Since I got in the race in July, I’ve learned a lot from traveling the district and listening to the good people of this region,” Palumbo said. “It has been a rewarding experience to get to better know the hard-working people of the 6th District who make this part of Kentucky so special.”

Andy Barr’s alliance with shutdown Republicans could spell trouble

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington

By Sam Youngman —

Most of the House Republicans who dug in over including President Barack Obama’s health care law in budget negotiations, eventually forcing a government shutdown, are in safe districts and might even receive a hero’s welcome.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, is not from one of those districts.

Barr’s decision to vote with the group of Republicans most commonly identified with the Tea Party could cause the freshman congressman some heartburn when voters go to the polls next November if Democrats are able to mount a credible challenge.

Like most off-year elections, the 6th District Congressional race has not generated a great deal of excitement more than a year away from the election.

But national Democrats, eager to retake the House after what Obama called a “shellacking” in 2010, have put Barr’s seat on their list of targets.

After voting Wednesday night against the final deal that reopened the government and extended the debt ceiling, Barr told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he had reflected on his campaign promises and his daughters who stand to inherit a massive national debt. He was adamant that he had not considered the political ramifications.

“You know what? I don’t care, and I am not focused on politics,” Barr said. “This is not about politics. This is about the next generation.”

Andy Barr opposes debt deal, says ‘I feel very confident that I did the right thing’

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington

By Sam Youngman

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr said in an interview late Wednesday night that he voted against the final agreement to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling because that’s what his constituents wanted him to do.

Barr told the Herald-Leader that in the hours before the House approved a deal brokered in the Senate by Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, he read the bill, thought of his daughters and the debt their generation stands to inherit and watched old campaign footage to remind him of why he was in Washington.

Barr said he watched a recording of one of his campaign speeches from the Capitol Rotunda where he told voters he “was running for a cause and not a career and that cause was to save America from bankruptcy.”

“When I looked at this legislation tonight, I did not believe in the final judgment it did what the people of the Sixth District asked me to do,” Barr said.

He added: “I feel very confident that I did the right thing because this is what my constituents asked me to do.”

Barr has been targeted by national Democrats who see a district not as safe as those of Barr’s colleagues in the House, mostly identified with the Tea Party, who have insisted that President Barack Obama’s health care law be modified as part of a deal to fund the government.

When asked if he had made himself more vulnerable by voting against a bill that was destined to pass, Barr was adamant his re-election prospects were not a factor in his decision.

“You know what? I don’t care, and I am not focused on politics,” Barr said. “This is not about politics. This is about the next generation.”

Roll call for Kentucky’s congressional delegation

Sen. Mitch McConnell — Yes
Sen. Rand Paul — No

Rep. Andy Barr — No
Rep. Thomas Massie — No
Rep. Brett Guthrie — Yes
Rep. Hal Rodgers — Yes
Rep. Ed Whitfield — Yes
Rep. John Yarmuth — Yes

Democrats vying to challenge Andy Barr report fundraising efforts

Democrat Joe Palumbo of Lexington

By Sam Youngman

Two of the Democrats vying to challenge U.S. Rep. Andy Barr announced their quarterly fundraising results late Tuesday night, revealing a significant advantage for Barr since his opponents still must run a primary race.

Joe Palumbo out-paced Elisabeth Jensen in the third quarter, raising more than $95,000 and loaning his campaign an additional $50,000 since entering the race in mid-July.

Palumbo’s $145,000 topped the more than $51,000 Jensen raised, bringing her total since entering the race in mid-June to more than $125,000.

After campaign expenses, Palumbo has about $109,000 in cash-on-hand to Jensen’s $79,000.

Those numbers are dwarfed by the $265,000 Barr raised last quarter, ending with the congressman reporting $781,000 cash-on-hand.

National Democrats see Kentucky’s 6th District as a possible pick-up opportunity, targeting Barr with automated phone calls as they seek to ensure Barr is blamed for the federal government shutdown and possible U.S. default on its debt.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has Barr on its list of lawmakers vulnerable to defeat after Barr joined a group of House Republicans who have insisted that President Barack Obama’s health care law be modified as part of a deal to fund the government.

Barr has argued that the resulting government shutdown is Obama’s fault, repeatedly and vocally criticizing the president for not agreeing to come to the negotiating table to make compromises on the health care law.

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader hours before the shutdown began, Barr warned that he would not budge on his belief that changes to the health care law should be included in the spending bill.

Polls show disastrous numbers for Republicans as Americans put the overwhelming majority of the blame on them for the shutdown, though Barr accurately predicted that all players involved would take a hit.

“I think that the American people will blame everybody in Washington” Barr said on Sept. 30. “Everybody, Republicans, independents and Democrats, if we can’t accomplish these two objectives to limit the harmful impact of Obamacare and keep the government running.”

Andy Barr adds $265K to campaign war chest

By Sam Youngman

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, raised more than $265,000 in the third quarter, his campaign told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Barr, who is facing reelection next year, has more than $781,000 cash on hand as a field of Democrats are lining up to take him on.

Would-be challenger hits Andy Barr with shutdown poll sponsored by liberal group

U.S. Rep.-elect Andy Barr, R-Lexington

By Sam Youngman

WASHINGTON — One of the Democrats vying to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in next year’s election opened up a line of attack on the congressman Sunday over the federal government shutdown.

Democrat Elisabeth Jensen used the results of a new poll, sponsored by the liberal and conducted by left-leaning Public Polling Polling (PPP), to launch an assault on Barr. The poll shows Barr taking a significant political hit from the shutdown.

Many Republicans dispute the validity of the poll, which shows Barr with only a 38 percent approval rating and losing to an unspecified Democrat next year.

The sample for the poll, part of a group of surveys PPP conducted in 23 other districts between Oct. 2-4, leans heavily toward Democrats, who make up 51 percent of the respondents compared to 36 percent who answered as Republicans and 14 percent who responded as independents.

The numbers, if accurate, show looming storm clouds for Barr. They suggest a severe rebuke of Republicans for pushing to keep President Barack Obama’s health care law on the negotiating table, definitively placing blame on Republicans for causing the shutdown.

The poll shows Barr losing to a generic Democrat both before and after respondents were asked if they’d be more or less likely to vote for him if they knew he voted in support of a government shutdown in an effort “to stop the health care law from being put into place.

Barr trailed a theoretical Democratic candidate 44 percent to 47 percent before respondents were asked that and similar questions. Afterward, he trailed 42 percent to 50 percent.

“The people of Central and Eastern Kentucky are clearly rejecting Congressman Barr’s decision to shut down the government for the purpose of political posturing,” Jensen said in a statement. “It is time to reach across the aisle, and actually start the process of governing together. It is what our economy needs to start moving forward again, and what the people of the 6th district want.”

A spokeswoman for Barr dismissed both the poll and the subsequent attack.

Rand Paul’s website warns constituents not to expect a response during shutdown

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul speaks with reporters in Midway, Ky., on May 24, 2013. Photo by Jack Brammer | Staff

By Sam Youngman

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s office is unable to communicate with constituents during the federal government shutdown, according to a message on Paul’s Senate website.

Kentuckians who visit Paul’s website and proceed to click on the tab marked “Contact” are greeted with a message that the phones in Paul’s Kentucky and Washington office “will not be monitored regularly until the shutdown has ended.”

Filling out and submitting a contact request by email on the senator’s website results in a form reply email with the same message.

“Responses to correspondence will be delayed until normal government operations resume,” the message reads.

Paul has stood prominent in the national media spotlight since the government shut down Monday at midnight after Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a spending agreement as both sides squared off over the Affordable Care Act.

Paul’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night. Much of the senator’s staff has been furloughed because of the shutdown.

The message reads:

As of Oct. 1, 2013, due to the government shutdown, my offices are currently operating with limited resources and staff. Please note that phones at my Washington, D.C., office as well as my offices in Kentucky will not be monitored regularly until the shutdown has ended. Responses to correspondence will be delayed until normal government operations resume.

Please be assured I am working tirelessly with my colleagues to provide a solution to this current state of affairs.

Thank you and God Bless,

Dr. Rand Paul

The website of Kentucky’s senior senator, Mitch McConnell, did not contain a similar message Thursday night. However, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, warned visitors to his website that much of his staff has been furloughed.

“As a result, my staff’s traveling office hours have been temporarily suspended,” the message reads. “In addition, tours of the Capitol, flying of flags above the Capitol and other services will be suspended for the duration of the shutdown.”

Shutdown brings D.C. fundraising to halt for most of Ky. delegation

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville

By Sam Youngman

WASHINGTON — With few exceptions, Kentucky’s federal lawmakers have scrambled to cancel fundraisers after the government shut down midnight Monday.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, still planned to attend a high-dollar event at the Four Seasons hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., with optional golf for attendees beginning Thursday, according to a fundraising schedule obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Whitfield’s event, planned to raise money for his Thoroughbred Political Action Committee (PAC), included suggested contributions of $2,500 per PAC and $1,500 per individual. Illinois Republican Rep. John Shimkus was scheduled to join the Kentucky congressman.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the event was still on, but a statement from Whitfield spokesman Chris Pack indicated that might change.

“The congressman’s sole focus right now is getting Harry Reid and the Senate to negotiate with the House to reopen the federal government,” Pack said in an email. “The congressman will assess his schedule as the week progresses.”

U.S. Reps. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, both canceled fundraising events planned for Wednesday, and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell canceled a fundraising breakfast scheduled for Thursday morning.

Barr, Guthrie, Whitfield and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, all canceled fundraisers that were scheduled for Tuesday, the first full day of the government shutdown.

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Vanceburg, managed to attend a fundraiser on Monday at the GOP’s Capitol Hill Club in Washington after a meeting of the House Republican Conference and just hours before the shutdown began.