RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - From raising the minimum wage, to the nationally watched Senate race in Kentucky, Republican Rep. Andy Barr and his Democratic challenger Elisabeth Jensen squared off Monday night in a televised debate on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University.
The two candidates are battling for Kentucky's 6th district seat in the House of Representatives.
Calling himself an optimist not a defeatist, Barr told the crowd that his attitude is needed in Washington. "They sent me to Washington to be a reformer," Barr told the crowd.
Speaking about what she said is one of the biggest differences between her and Barr, Jensen said she would advocate more for consumers, while saying her opponent is a stronger advocate for big businesses and corporations in Washington.
Barr told the crowd of students in the audience that he doesn't support raising the federal minimum wage, but instead he believes in finding ways for the government to support economic growth, which in turn would lift wages.
"By raising the minimum wage, it's the quickest way to get money in the pockets of our hard working families," said Jensen, who supports mandating an increase for the minimum wage, which hasn't been raised since 2009 when the federal government increased it to $7.25.
An August Bluegrass Poll - conducted for WKYT-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS-TV - found 55 percent in favor of raising the minimum hourly pay to $10.10. A bill aimed at gradually raising the minimum wage cleared a Kentucky House of Representatives committee in January, but failed to win over the entire state legislature.
Barr is finishing his first term in Congress while Jensen, who runs an education nonprofit in Lexington, is making her first run for office.
Jensen said she would give President Barack Obama a B- for his job performance, saying he's been good for economy and the healthcare exchange that prompted the creation of Kynect, which has more than 500,000 Kentuckians enrolled.
Barr would give him a failing grade for his performance after two terms in the White House, saying he's been an impediment to working with Congressional leaders on many key issues.
When discussion turned to the race between Sen. Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, Barr told said he supports Congressional term limits as a way to end gridlock in Washington. "Ending the cycle of careers in Washington will change that mentality," Barr said.
Jensen told the crowd that she supports Grimes, a fellow Democrat, in the much talked about race.
"I come from a business background. I am fiscally responsible," Jensen explained when answering questions about government spending and involvement in helping Americans.
The candidates also weighed in on foreign affairs.
"American foreign policy is in crisis because America doesn't have a foreign policy," Barr said criticizing Obama administration policies involving Ukraine, ISIS, and other foreign affairs.
The debate was televised by WKYT. WKYT Political Editor Bill Bryant was the moderator.
Along with Bryant, questions during the debate came from EKU Student Government President Kyle Nicholas, WEKU News Director Jonese Franklin and Lexington Herald-Leader political writer Sam Youngman.