The Democratic candidates seeking the party’s nomination in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District touted their progressive views while distancing themselves from the party’s liberal leaders during a debate Monday.
The Democratic candidates expressed support for gun control, forms of marijuana legalization, and adding a public option to Obamacare or even enacting a single-payer system, NPR affiliate WFPR reported. But their liberal policy positions do not mean they support current Democratic leadership, and former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath said they need to take the party back from the coastal establishment.
"The Democratic Party is seen to be led by San Francisco in Nancy Pelosi and New York City in Chuck Schumer," McGrath said. "And you know, that’s not American. So as Democrats, we need to get that back."
McGrath is one of six candidates running for the nomination next week; she's joined by Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, state Sen. Reggie Thomas and Lexington residents Daniel Kemph, Theodore David Green, and Geoff Young.
Gray said, "it’s time for leadership change, and that includes Congresswoman Pelosi."
To Thomas, the Democratic Party has "lost the heart of the heartland" and needd to focus more on rural parts of Kentucky.
"Let’s face it, here in this state, the state Democratic Party is one of Lexington, Louisville, and nowhere else," Thomas said.
Thomas is attempting to run to the left of his competition by supporting a single-payer health care plan, while his opponents mostly argue for strengthening Obamacare. McGrath believes health care is a human right and supports a so-called public option for the government to provide some people with health coverage, conceding single-payer could be desirable if the country "started from scratch" on the issue.
McGrath has also spoken out against the National Rifle Association (NRA), likening them to oil companies and "Big Pharma."
"The gun lobby (primarily the NRA) is arguably the most powerful of all special interests," her website reads.
Supporting new gun legislation is something the candidates mostly agree on, a stance in line with Democratic leadership.
Such positions are hardly the norm in Kentucky, but in the 6th District, Democrats outnumber Republicans about three to two. Incumbent Rep. Andy Barr’s (R.) campaign has $2.2 million, although he has faced protests at town halls recently over his conservative votes in favor of tax reform and repealing Obamacare.
Monday's debate largely followed the precedent set last month when the candidates advocated progressive policies, such as raising the minimum wage. The expressed negativity toward Pelosi and Democratic leadership is also part of a larger trend among Democratic House candidates, some of whom have succeeded by running against Pelosi's continued leadership.