State Sen. Reggie Thomas launches campaign for 6th Congressional District

07/01/2017 06:16 PM

LEXINGTON — State Senator Reggie Thomas became the first major Democrat to announce his plans to take on U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in the 6th Congressional District.

He touched on topics like health care, jobs, infrastructure and education before about 150 supporters at Lexington’s Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center on Saturday.

As Republicans in both chambers of Congress move their versions of health-care reform closer to President Donald Trump’s desk, Thomas bemoaned the state’s poor health statistics and said Barr, R-Lexington, “time and time again has sided with fat-cat insurance companies and recently voted to kick a half million Kentuckians off their health insurance.”

That’s a reference to the American Health Care Act, which would mandate that states which continue Medicaid expansion cover that population under traditional Medicaid rates. Some 400,000 Kentuckians enrolled in Medicaid after Gov. Steve Beshear expanded eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, in 2013.

“In the greatest country on the face of this Earth, no one, no one should die from preventable illness simply because some insurance company wants to pad its bottom line,” Thomas, D-Lexington, said in his remarks.

Thomas said he plans to go on a listening tour in every county of the district as he crafts a plan to top Barr in the 2018 election.

He said he’d been asked how he hoped to beat Barr as he contemplated entering the race.

“I have to say someone like Andy, who’s spent half of his entire life either working on a government job or seeking a government job, is going to be tough to beat,” Thomas said. “However, I’ve seen Andy’s type of government experience, and I think it’s time we elect someone with real-life experience.”

Barr campaign spokesman Rick VanMeter said that the three-term congressman “is not focused on the Democrats’ intra-party fight, especially a year before the 2018 primary election.”

“Instead, he is focused on fighting for the values and interests of the people of the Sixth District in Congress, keeping his promises and doing the job he was elected to do,” VanMeter said in a statement. “There will be a time in the future for politics, but now is the time to do the work of the American people.”

One name Thomas didn’t mention in his announcement speech: President Donald Trump.

Thomas says he’s not worried that evoking Trump’s name will hurt his prospects in the district, in which Trump won every county but Fayette in 2016.

“I’ve been out in those outlying counties. I’ve been out talking to those people, sitting down, meeting with them, listening to them,” he said. “My focus is on what Andy Barr has done to really hurt this district.”

Thomas estimates he’ll need $2 million for the contest, and he’s confident he’ll meet that fundraising goal.

He’s also not overlooking a potential Democratic primary, saying he’s not worried about whether Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who carried the district in his 2016 U.S. Senate campaign, decides to seek the congressional seat.

“I’m an announced candidate, and I’m going to run to win this congressional seat,” Thomas said.

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath has launched an exploratory committee for the race, and former state Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, also has been mentioned as another Democrat eyeing the race.


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