Three Congressional Candidates Weigh In On Issues In the Sixth District

May 16, 2018

File Photo from KET Kentucky Tonight
Credit Stu Johnson

The Sixth District Congressional race features six Democrats hoping to replace incumbent Andy Barr. As the May 22nd primary approaches, we’ll hear from three candidates who hope to be competing in the fall in the first of two reports.

For years, health care has been a prominent election issue.  Lexington State Senator Reggie Thomas, who announced his run for congress last summer, says health care will make up 25 percent of the gross domestic product within some seven years. “We can’t afford to have the country have health care be one-fourth of all our dollars.  People won’t be able to afford health care at that rate of growth.  So we’ve got to make changes,” said Thomas.

Thomas says that change comes with a single payer approach.  Thomas says it would lower the cost of health care, because as he puts it, universal coverage would be the “only game in town.”

Retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath proposes a ‘public option’ health care plan, which would provide both choice and much needed competition.  She understands some may be hesitant to go with a government plan. “If you are one of those Americans who might be afraid of the government, then pick the private plan.  That provides people choice and makes the private insurers now have to compete with something,” said McGrath.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray believes part of the problem in Washington is the large amount of money spent by health care lobbyists.

“It’s the responsibility of elected officials to cut through this, to cut through the special interests and get the money out of politics, because that money then does influence policy and it influences the industry,” contended Gray.

Part of the national debate on health care involves medicinal marijuana.  Thomas, who describes himself as a progressive, says he backs medicinal pot and legalization for recreational use.

“I think it’s time that we just have modern realistic thinking and recognize that marijuana is not a Schedule 1 drug.  It’s not the same as heroin or cocaine.  It’s not in that category,” noted Thomas.

Gray cites the opioid epidemic as one of the main issues the federal government needs to get its arms around, as he puts it.  The two term mayor says there too much stigma attached to opioid addiction.

“Our jail beds need to be for dealers.  But, we need more recovery beds for those addicted,” said Gray.

Much of the 19 county area in the sixth congressional district is rural.  McGrath says farmers have expressed concern about current trade policies.

“A lot of their exports in agriculture go overseas or to other countries.  And so, when you start trade wars, they get affected,” said McGrath. 

While McGrath says U.S. tax dollar support of military services is critical to assure those in military can do their job, one of her competitors, Reggie Thomas believes reductions should be made.

“Certainly we want to make sure that we are defense ready and we want to have the best trained military and the best resources out there.  But, that said, I believe we spend too much money on our military,” contended Thomas

President Trump has said infrastructure improvements are a key to moving the U.S. economy forward.  And while, Gray backs those type of expenditures, he says it can’t be solely asphalt or bridge work.“It’s bricks and mortar yes.  It’s roads and its bridges and it’s highways, but it’s also broadband and this is what is so essential is that we see investment in infrastructure as investment in our economy and its future,” said Gray.

The infrastructure plan carries a price tag exceeding a trillion dollars.  McGrath believe the tax cuts enacted the end of last year by congress cause concern when considering other needed social programs. “That’s a problem because it puts a squeeze on every other part of our federal budget including Medicare and Medicaid and social security,” argued McGrath.

Voters will consider many of these positions when they cast their ballots.

Come next Tuesday, a Democrat will emerge from the six person field to take on the winner of the GOP race. That race pits incumbent Andy Barr against first time candidate Chuck Eddy.