Fresh off a vote to pass the Republican tax overhaul bill in December, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr filed for re-election Thursday.
“To be sure, we have made great progress, but there is a lot more to be done,” the Lexington lawmaker said during a news conference at the Republican Party of Kentucky headquarters. “And that’s why just moments ago, I filed again to represent the people of the 6th District in Congress.”
In his nearly 10-minute announcement, Barr touted the strong national economy and Republican legislative accomplishments over the past two years, including the tax reform package passed this December and a bill passed in 2016 designed to address opioid abuse.
“Over the next 11 months I will continue to do what I’ve always done,” Barr said. “I am going to focus on solving problems, on keeping my promises and being accessible to the people of Kentucky.”
Barr is currently unopposed in the GOP primary, but in the general election he’ll likely face the most competitive Democratic candidate he’s seen since defeating incumbent Ben Chandler in 2012.
Five Democrats are running to challenge Barr, including Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, retired Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath and State Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington. Perennial candidate Geoff Young and Theodore David Green from Lexington have also filed to run as Democrats.
Barr currently has more cash on hand than any of the Democratic candidates, with $1,307,056. The next closest, according to the October filing deadline, was McGrath with $551,550.
There are more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in the Central Kentucky district, but President Donald Trump carried the district by 16 points in 2016 and Barr beat his 2016 Democratic challenger with 61 percent of the vote.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, though, has recruited heavily in the district, seeing it as one that could be flipped from Republican to Democrat.
Barr said he was not concerned about rising Democratic enthusiasm, saying he thinks that anger is focused only on Trump.
“I don’t think that reflects on my work in Congress,” Barr said. “I think that’s totally independent. I think there’s energy there certainly, but I think it more has to do with the left’s interest in the president and less about me.”
Some of that animosity, at least among Democrats, has been geared toward Barr. As he held town halls throughout the district in 2017, Barr was greeted with large crowds, with many people angry at his support for the Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Lately, Democrats have criticized Barr for the tax reform bill, which was signed into law in late December.
While economists estimate that many Americans will see a tax cut from the bill, it remains unpopular. A NBC-Wall Street Journal poll on Dec. 19 showed that 24 percent of people thought the bill was a good idea while 41 percent thought it was a bad idea.
Thomas has called the bill a tax cut for corporations, because individual tax cuts expire while corporate tax cuts are permanent. McGrath has been critical of the fact that the bill increases the national debt. Gray has pointed out the bill raises taxes for Berea College.
Barr, who ran for office with a promise to reduce the deficit and balance the budget, said he thinks the bill will provide economic growth, which would offset any deficit increase.
“The idea that these same critics, whose policies they supported over the last eight years literally doubled the national debt, to think that they’re the ones now that are complaining about national deficits is just totally hypocritical,” Barr said.