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Q&A: Chandler, Barr discuss top issues, negative campaigns

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Like many Democrats across the country, Rep. Ben Chandler is in a real dogfight this November election.

If the latest Kentucky Poll is any indication, the race between Chandler and Andy Barr in the sixth Congressional district could be another election night cliffhanger. The poll found 48 percent of likely voters plan to vote to send Chandler back to Washington. Forty-four percent said they'll vote for Barr, the Republican challenger and a one-time deputy general counsel to former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

“But factor in those undecided and a four-point percent margin of error and the race could swing either way,” said WKYT political editor Bill Bryant.

Commissioned by WKYT and The Lexington Herald-Leader, Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C., interviewed 500 registered sixth district voters October 15-19. The sixth district includes all or parts of Anderson, Boyle, Bourbon, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Franklin, Garrard, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, Montgomery, Powell, Scott, and Woodford counties.

Chandler was one of the first high profile Kentuckians to endorse Barack Obama for president. Obama went on to lose Kentucky. The Kentucky Poll found the President along with his healthcare reform and stimulus plans remain fiercely unpopular in Kentucky. They're all points Barr and Republicans are hoping to capitalize on in the battle for the sixth district.

The sixth district is one of two Kentucky districts Republicans are eyeing as they look to capture 39 seats to retake control of the House of Representatives. The races in Kentucky's other four districts, all in the hands of Republicans, are not expected to be closely contested. Kentucky's polls are among the first to close nationally meaning the outcome of the sixth district race may be an indicator for how the night will go across the country.

As part of our Campaign 2010 coverage, WKYT asked both Chandler and Barr the same set of questions.

Q: What is the most important issue in this campaign?

Chandler: "Well, there are a lot issues but jobs. Making sure that we put people back to work is far and away the most important thing. And we're on a program, a very strong program, to put people back to work in this country. We have got lots of tax breaks that are being out in place. Lots of tax breaks have already been put in place to get people back to work. We have also worked on infrastructure projects, continue to do that. A lot of plans are in motion to make sure that we have people employed in this country. That's what we have got to keep our focus on."

Barr: "I think the biggest difference between me and my opponent is the fact that he has supported policies that have not helped our economy recover. And in fact he has supported policies like cap and trade which would threaten thousands of Kentucky jobs. The proposals that I would support, the policies that I would support would get our economy moving again and get people back to work. There is ten percent unemployment in Kentucky and regrettably Congressman Chandler has supported policies which have not solved that problem."

Q: Do you think this has been a negative campaign?

Chandler: "Well, of course it has. Yes. It has been a negative campaign, and I am sorry about that. My opponent has yet to run the first positive ad. We have run quiet a number of positive ads. We have tried to keep it in a positive vein but unfortunately when you get attacked so viciously with so many things that are untrue, you have no choice but to answer them."

Barr: "While I do think that unfortunately the campaign has taken a personal tone, what we have tried to do is focus on the issues. We ran a campaign at the very beginning which talked about what we wanted to accomplish as the next congressman for the sixth Congressional district. But we have also talked about the congressman's record. I think that's legitimate. I said that in the debate. But certainly we want to talk about the issues. We challenged Congressman Chandler to 16 live, in person debates to talk about the substantive policy issues that matter to the people of central Kentucky. We never received a response."

Q: What is your top priority for the sixth district?

Chandler: "Well, again, the top priority for the sixth district is making sure our people are employed. That's the bottom line. People are concerned. Not only a large number of people have lost their jobs as a result of this Bush recession but in addition to that we have a lot of people who are concerned about their jobs. We have got to build a strong economy that people have faith in, that provides people with opportunity, and that goes just as strongly for the sixth district as it does for anywhere in the country. That's what our people here in the sixth district want."

Barr: "The top priority for the sixth district is to get the people working again. We have over ten percent unemployment, and so the top priority is to get the economy moving again, get job creation happening again, and make sure that entrepreneurs and small business owners have the certainty to hire once again. In the long run, we have got to tackle our national debt. We have got to make the government start living within its means again."

Q: Political campaigns often talk negatively about your opponent. What are you able to say positive about your opponent?

Chandler: "Seems like a nice fella."

Barr: "Well, I certainly appreciate his service to the people of central Kentucky and his family's service to the people of central Kentucky. I got a chance to meet him the other night before our debate, and I really appreciate the opportunity to thank him."

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