LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Josh Hicks, a Marine veteran who switched parties after growing disillusioned with Republican policies he saw as favoring the wealthy, claimed the Democratic nomination Tuesday for a Kentucky congressional seat, setting up a fall match-up against U.S. Rep. Andy Barr.
A week after the state’s primary election, Hicks was declared the winner over Daniel Kemph in the Democratic contest in the 6th District, which stretches from the bluegrass region of central Kentucky to the Appalachian foothills.
Election officials needed days to count ballots after the state switched to widespread absentee voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. Barr coasted to victory in the June 23 GOP primary in pursuit of a fifth House term.
A week before the election, Barr’s wife, Carol, died unexpectedly at their Lexington home. A preliminary autopsy report said she died of natural causes from a heart condition.
After a week of suspense, election results Tuesday decided the outcome of races for federal, state legislative and local offices.
The Barr-Hicks match-up looms as a high-profile race in the GOP-dominated state and will give voters a clear choice on some key issues.
Barr supports repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act championed by former President Barack Obama. Hicks says the law has helped Kentucky families in part by expanding Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians. Barr supported a sweeping tax overhaul package that delivered broad tax cuts. Hicks says those tax cuts disproportionately benefited corporations and wealthy individuals.
It was his disenchantment with GOP policies that led Hicks to switch parties in 2016. Barr has tried to connect Hicks to the liberal wing of the national Democratic Party.
Hicks served in the Marine Corps, reaching the rank of sergeant, and then spent five years as a police officer in Maysville. He went on to earn his law degree and started his own law practice in Lexington.
Barr was a target of national Democrats in 2018 but held off a strong challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath.