KY-06: Barr Moves From Lean Republican to Toss Up

Despite the fact President Trump carried this Lexington district by 15 points in 2016, polling conducted by both parties continues to show three-term GOP Rep. Andy Barr slightly trailing his Democratic opponent. Retired Marine combat pilot Amy McGrath appears to be benefiting from heavy ad spending for the May 22 primary, in which she upset Lexington Mayor Jim Gray 49 percent to 41 percent. Barr didn't have a competitive primary.

The DCCC had initially signaled its preference for Gray, a construction executive who carried the 6th CD as Democrats' 2016 Senate nominee and would have been capable of self-funding the fall race. But McGrath stormed out of the gate with a powerful bio video about being the first female to fly an F-18 fighter jet in combat, raised $2 million for a cheap media market, and toppled amid huge Democratic turnout.

Republicans believe the 6th CD's strong GOP bent will reassert itself when voters find out more about McGrath. They'll attack McGrath, who grew up in Northern Kentucky, as a carpetbagger for moving from Maryland in 2017 (she worked at the Pentagon and taught at the Naval Academy). They'll also use McGrath's heavy reliance on out-of-state contributions, including from celebrities like George Clooney, to cast her as a Hollywood liberal.

Late in the primary, Gray turned to these lines of attack with an ad titled "Never Lived Here," and came up short. But Barr and Republicans will also trot out remarks McGrath made last November at an Indivisible Bourbon County event in which she appeared to compare how she felt about Trump's election to the aftermath of a terrorist attack: "The only feeling I can describe that's anything close to it was the feeling I had after 9/11."

Kentucky's 6th CD has a Cook PVI score of R+9, and only one House Democrat represents a more Republican seat. But in a sign of the times, both parties agree Barr is behind today. He hasn't faced a real race since he unseated Democrat Ben Chandler in 2012, but he sits on the powerful Financial Services Committee has a healthy $2.3 million in the bank, so still has time to recover on the Lexington airwaves. It's a Toss Up.