By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
The crowd at Monday night’s Anderson County Farm Bureau Federation burgoo was politically aware and most of them vote.
So it was no surprise that both candidates for the 6th Congressional District — incumbent Democrat Ben Chandler and Republican challenger Andy Barr — showed up to harvest votes and greet the large crowd.
Predictably, both men expressed confidence — but both were surprised by news that a Pew Poll released Monday afternoon showed Republican Mitt Romney had forged slightly ahead of President Barack Obama, a swing of about 12 points in the Pew Poll since one taken before last week’s presidential debate.
“Obviously the better Mitt Romney does in the 6th District, the better for me,” said Barr between handshakes. “My record is much more aligned with Mitt Romney’s and Ben Chandler’s much more aligned with Barack Obama’s policies.”
Chandler said if Romney is closing and perhaps erasing the previous gap in polling with Obama, “it probably is not helpful. But as far as our race is concerned, I think it’s pretty static.”
That, Chandler said, means he’s still ahead.
It was hard to determine by talking to those attending the burgoo — made out back of the Eagle Lake Convention Hall under the watchful supervision of local burgoo legend Davie Warford, who learned the recipe and art from his grandfather.
Even with so many older attendees and with all the attention the two candidates have put on Medicare, it was hard to get a clear consensus on the favorite in the room.
Willis Hawkins, 75, a retired maintenance worker at Keeneland, said he’s a Democrat (so he can vote in local primaries) who usually votes Republican in national elections.
“Andy Barr’s my man,” Hawkins said as he waited for a friend to bring him his bowl of burgoo. He said he relies on Social Security and Medicare but called Chandler’s claims that Barr, Romney and Republicans want to scale back Medicare “just scare tactics.” He thinks Barr will win.
Donna Bash, 80, a self-described “yellow-dog Democrat,” who claims a 97-year-old uncle who is “just as Republican as I am Democrat,” said Chandler will win. This time, she said, by a bigger margin than the 647 vote margin over Barr two years ago.
Oscar Shingleton, 66, an employee of Red’s Welding and Recycling, thinks she’s wrong, at least he hopes so.
“I’m campaigning for the entire Republican ticket, and I’m a Democrat,” Shingleton said. “I just don’t think Ben’s done the job he was elected to do.”
Barr said Shingleton is an example of a changing electorate — “They don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. They’re interested in jobs, and they recognize we need a change.”
Maybe so, but Geraldine Trent, 81, said Medicare is important to people her age and that separates Chandler and Barr. She said she doesn’t think Republicans will protect those benefits which seniors depend on.
“I’m not buying anything Barr says on that,” she said, adding she is a lifelong “Dem-O-crat!”
Chandler said Barr’s campaign is playing loose with facts on the economy, taxes and the impact of Obama’s policies on the coal industry and is misleading people on Medicare.
Barr supports a plan by Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan to allow younger workers to use a government “premium support” to buy private insurance while guaranteeing those who want to remain in Medicare to do so. Chandler says that will destroy Medicare and promises to “keep Medicare strong.”
Barr has hit Chandler for his vote three years ago for a “cap and trade” bill which passed the House but died in the Senate, claiming Chandler and Obama are “devastating” the coal industry. Chandler said he voted for the bill because it contained provisions which would have aided Kentucky’s coal industry.
Barr said Monday he expects those criticisms not only to continue but “to amplify to show the impact of those lost jobs on central Kentucky and other jobs.”
The two came in at different times and worked the room from opposite sides, each with a local Anderson County escort.
But it wasn’t all partisan.
Stanley Goldsmith, 73, said — with a wink to his buddies around the burgoo pots out back of the hall — he’s pretty sure of one thing.
“I’m afraid one of ’em’s gonna win,” Goldsmith said with a chuckle. He wouldn’t say how he intends to vote.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.