RICHMOND — Central Kentucky will be ground zero in this year’s battle for control of the U.S. House as President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will visit to stump for their candidates.
Trump will hold a rally on Saturday, Oct. 13, at Eastern Kentucky University’s Alumni Coliseum hoping to boost the campaign of incumbent Republican 6th District Congressman Andy Barr of Lexington.
Barr faces his stiffest challenge since he was elected in 2012 from Democrat Amy McGrath, a retired U.S. Marine Lt. Colonel and fighter pilot who flew 89 combat missions in the Middle East. Such national publications as The Cook Political Report rate the race as a toss-up.
Biden will visit Bath County for a fish fry and campaign rally with McGrath on the day before Trump’s visit.
Trump won 65 percent of the vote statewide and won the 6th District by 15 points in the 2016 presidential election and remains popular in the conservative and increasingly red state. While some Republicans in other parts of the country have distanced themselves from Trump, Barr has embraced the president.
“Kentuckians are better off today because of the policies I voted for and this President signed into law,” Barr said in a statement after the Trump visit was announced.
“Thanks to tax cuts, deregulation and reforms to increase Americans’ access to the financial system, we’ve delivered faster economic growth, more jobs and bigger paychecks,” Barr said. “We’re rebuilding the military and reforming the VA and we’ve made the largest investment to date to combat the opioid epidemic that’s ravaging many of our communities.”
Barr’s television advertising attempts to portray McGrath as “too liberal for Kentucky,” often associating her with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. McGrath, however, upset the favored candidate of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, in the Democratic primary.
Bringing in Biden who remains popular with Kentucky’s conservative Democrats a day ahead of Trump’s visit is one way of shielding McGrath from being labeled a liberal Democrat. On the campaign trail, McGrath says she’s an independent Democrat who will put country before party and work across the aisle on important issues.
Biden will appear with McGrath on Friday, Oct. 12, for an old-fashioned fish fry and campaign rally at the Bath County High School in Owingsville.
In a statement released by McGrath’s campaign, Biden said the former Marine “has dedicated her life to service to this country. We need more men and women of character like Amy in Congress and I am looking forward to campaigning alongside her.”
McGrath said she welcomes Biden’s help.
“I’m so honored that Vice President Biden will join me in Bath County next week and have a chance to meet the hardworking people from our rural counties,” she said. “The Vice President is an American patriot who has dedicated his life to serving our country and bettering the lives of all Americans.”
Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District is the closest thing to a swing district in the state. It stretches across 19 counties, from the more urban areas in Scott, Franklin and Fayette counties in the west to Bath, Fleming, Menifee and Wolfe counties in the rural foothills of Appalachia in the east.
Barr won the district by 22 points in 2016, but a Siena College/New York Times poll earlier this month showed him up by only one point. McGrath’s campaign released an internal poll on Thursday showing her leading the race by seven points.
Democratic candidates typically try to roll up large numbers in the urban areas hoping to offset losses in the rural counties but McGrath has waged a 19-county campaign, opening field offices in each county.
Madison County, where Trump will visit, is seen as a bellwether county and both candidates have campaigned there often. In 2016, Barr won the county by a 2-1 margin.
Doors will open at the EKU Alumni Coliseum at 4 p.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 13, for the Trump rally. To acquire tickets to Trump’s rally, visit https://www.donaldjtrump.com/rallies.
The McGrath rally featuring Biden begins at noon on Friday, Oct. 12, at the Bath County High School. Space is limited and advance tickets may be acquired by visiting amymcgrathforcongress.com/vpbiden.
Reach Critley King at 859-624-6623 and follow her on Twitter at @critleyking. Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cnhifrankfort.