BEREA — It was supposed to be easier for Democratic Congressman Ben Chandler this time around.
After squeaking out a 648-vote win over Republican challenger Andy Barr during the 2010 Republican wave, the 6th District was redrawn, adding Democratic registered voters in the east and shaving off some reliably Republican areas in the southwestern portion of the district.
But it hasn’t worked out that way – the race this year between the same candidates appears to be close, very close.
“It’s kind of like two years ago,” when the race tightened noticeably toward the end, said Barr this weekend. “We feel like we have even more momentum this time than two years ago.”
Chandler said he’s always expected a tight race, even though earlier in the campaign he touted internal polling he said showed him with comfortable double-digit leads.
“We expected all along it would tighten as it came down to the wire,” Chandler said Thursday as he handed out food items to children in the lunch line at Silver Creek.
While Barr was busy late last week addressing civic groups, one might wonder why Chandler was spending time at an elementary school where most of the people he met are too young to vote.
“They’ll go home and tell Mom and Dad,” said Karen Farmer, a full-time substitute at the school. Farmer said she is registered Republican and her husband works for a utility company making coal a key issue for her.
It’s an issue Barr has tried to make central to the campaign, although there are no active mines in the district. But many coal interests live in central Kentucky and those newly added eastern counties have ties to coal. Perhaps more importantly, coal interests have donated heavily to Barr’s campaign.
“Oh yes, coal is important to me,” Farmer said. Who declined to say how she’ll vote. “Because my husband works for the electrical co-op and as they like to say: coal keeps the lights on.”