By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
Democratic incumbent Ben Chandler and Republican challenger Andy Barr, again locked in a tight election, spent Saturday urging supporters to go to the polls and get friends and neighbors to vote.
Barr traveled the district in his campaign bus, stopping off here to speak to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 300 in the Richmond Mall food court. Just as Chandler predicted in Lexington that he would win, Barr predicted he will – if their supporters go to the polls.
Chandler met with close to 100 volunteers and supporters in Lexington Saturday morning before they fanned out to walk the neighborhoods and knock on doors.
“The whole key to this, folks, is who shows up on Tuesday,” Chandler said earlier in Lexington. “If we show up, there isn’t any doubt we’re going to win this election. So, it’s in your hands.”
“Victory is within our grasp. I ask each and every one of you to have no regrets,” Barr exhorted the Richmond crowd. “Let’s get out there and work hard every hour from now until the polls close at 6 p.m. Tuesday.”
And both slammed the other.
Barr called Chandler a “career politician” who sides with Democratic President Barack Obama and votes against the coal industry.
“We need a congressman who will fight for Kentucky, not Barack Obama,” Barr said. “We need a congressman who will fight for the coal industry, not fight against it.”
Barr referred to a Chandler vote for a “cap and trade” energy bill which didn’t get out of Congress and which Chandler said included money for clean coal technology and research which would have benefited the Kentucky coal industry.
Barr claims the bill would have cost thousands of jobs and blames Chandler and Obama for about 2,000 lost mining jobs in eastern Kentucky.
Chandler called that charge “ridiculous,” saying Barr and outside Republican groups have run television ads that “have just lied” and mischaracterized both his vote and the bill. Even coal market analysts, Chandler pointed out, blame the mild winter and competition from cheap natural gas for falling coal prices rather than environmental policies.
He said his vote to bail out the automobile industry is the one that most affected Kentucky, which has 70,000 auto jobs, at least 8,000 of those in Scott County at Toyota.
“What was more important was for the auto industry to be rescued,” Chandler said Saturday. “And (Barr) was against that. This is an industry that is absolutely crucial to people right here in the 6th District. There are 70,000 auto industry jobs right here in Kentucky and my opponent was opposed the rescue of that industry.”
Barr’s message, however, resonated with Democrat Ken Bellamy, a retired finance professional from Richmond. Bellamy said he’d supported Chandler previously and asked him in advance of the cap and trade vote to oppose the measure.
“Having a congressman from Kentucky vote for a tax on our only source of utilities is almost like saying Kentucky is not open for new industry,” Bellamy said before Barr spoke Saturday evening. He said that vote is not off-set for him by Chandler’s vote to help the auto industry.
Saturday morning Chandler told his supporters Barr and Republicans support a budget that creates a society of “every man for himself.”
“Now is that the kind of country we want?” Chandler asked the crowd. He said the Democratic Party “truly believes we are all in this together. This country has been built on a strong and broad middle class.”
He said Barr and Republicans would destroy or diminish Medicare and Social Security, programs he said which represent the difference for senior citizens “between retiring with dignity and going straight to the poor house.”
Chandler said “nothing less than the health of the middle class, nothing less than the health of our nation is at stake” in Tuesday’s election.
Barr also hit Chandler and Democrats for the burgeoning national debt, claiming “career politicians who spent more than you gave them to spend.” He called for tax reform but not for higher taxes.
Responding to a reporter’s question about his highest priority – the national debt or keeping taxes on upper income groups low – Barr said the answer is to reform the tax code, lowering rates but reducing exemptions, essentially the position of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Asked, however, if Obama is re-elected and the Congress is asked to vote on a debt reduction package that includes $2.5 in cuts for every $1 in increased taxes, Barr said he could not support such a proposal.
Both candidates said they expect a close race – so close Barr’s campaign has hired 19 lawyers to fan out across courthouses in the 19 counties in the 6th District. But Barr said he does not anticipate any “irregularities.” Rather, he said, he’s just being prepared in case of another razor-thin outcome like two years ago.
In 2010, Chandler eked out a 648-win over Barr who subsequently asked for a re-canvass.
Madison County Magistrate Billy Ray Hughes said the race is very close in Madison County and close throughout the district.
“Who knows? Who can tell?” Hughes said when asked who will win. “But there’s excitement in the Republican Party.”
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www. twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.