With negative advertising flying over the air, it's been a contentious rematch between incumbent Congressman Ben Chandler and challenger Andy Barr, a race Barr lost by just over 600 votes in 2010. Since they will be representing Kentucky's signature horse industry, we wanted to ask them both questions regarding their views on how they would represent this district over the next two years. We are not taking a side in the race but instead offering this as a voter's guide to our readers who live in the district.
What are your personal ties to the horse industry in Kentucky?
Barr – Born and raised in the horse capital of the world, I have been around the horse industry all my life. My grandfather, J.B. Faulconer, was the first full-time Director of Public Relations at Keeneland Racecourse during the 1960s and 1970s. He was credited with naming and organizing the Eclipse Awards in 1971. In addition, my grandfather was a past president of the Thoroughbred Club of America and served as executive vice president of Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America from 1976-1988. He also was an assistant to Oaklawn Park chairman Charles Cella. In retirement, my grandfather authored “The Names They Give Them,” which details the origins of more than 1,000 Thoroughbreds.
As an attorney, I have represented clients in the horse industry. I serve on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, an organization dedicated to commemorate the contributions of African Americans in the horse industry and I have many friends who work in the industry.
Chandler – As the only member of the Kentucky delegation who currently lives on an operating family farm, I'm very aware of the challenges that horse farmers face on a daily basis. I grew up just down the road from Keeneland and a number of horse farms, and I have a life-long love and respect for the horse industry, as well as an understanding of how to find real solutions to overcome the obstacles and problems facing Kentucky's horse industry.
2. What concerns do you have about the current health of the horse industry and how a shrinking racing and breeding business may negatively impact Kentucky?
Chandler – With over 320,000 horses in Kentucky, the equine industry is tremendously important to the Commonwealth's economy. From tourism to agriculture, many sectors of the economy depend on a thriving horse industry, and we need to do everything we can to help the industry grow. I have serious concerns that several horse farms are starting to move out of Kentucky as other states provide better opportunities. We have seen reduced racing dates, a double-digit drop in wagering, and declining Thoroughbred sales. I have supported growth in Kentucky's horse industry through legislation in Congress while also opposing burdensome regulations on family horse farms.
Barr – The horse industry is Kentucky's signature industry and is estimated to be directly and indirectly responsible for 100,000 jobs in our Commonwealth. The true impact of the horse industry has a far greater reach than that. Kentucky is known nationally and around the world as the center of the horse industry and our image generates millions in national and global tourism. It is vital that Kentucky maintain a vigorous horse industry.
The industry faces several challenges, both from competition – higher purses offered in other states, a proliferation of gaming opportunities, and more opportunities to spend an entertainment dollar in general – and from a weak economy that has yielded tighter budgets for businesses and citizens alike. We must find solutions that will strengthen our economy, and I will look for every opportunity to help Kentucky racing and breeding to be the most competitive it can be.
3. What, if anything, can Congress do to invigorate racing and breeding in Kentucky?
Barr – While Congress has left the question of what types of gaming options are available to our citizens to the states, it will be my top priority to champion the horse industry in Congress. I will:
– Fight to protect thoroughbred racing's unique status under the Interstate
– Protect racing and pari-mutual wagering in any online gambling legislation that
– Work to extend bonus depreciation and allowance rules that are set to expire in
– Push legislation that recognizes that horse farms should be afforded the same
protections provided to other agriculture.
I will also work to create more favorable withholding tax treatment that does not discriminate against the racing industry, and to reform the H2-A process so that it is fair and streamlined so that our farms have access to legal, quality and affordable labor.
Ultimately, the health of Kentucky's breeding and racing industry is directly threatened by our suffering economy. So job number one is to get our economy going again through free enterprise so that equine investors, owners and horse players have incentive to participate in the business and sport of thoroughbred breeding and racing. We must recognize that this is a worldwide market—we sell horses to at least 100 different markets around the world. Global economic recovery is important. I will support comprehensive tax reform that maintains fair tax treatment for farm owners and breeders, eliminates the discriminatory treatment of equine assets under our capital gains tax laws, eliminates the estate tax, and lowers tax rates for all taxpayers. Finally, I will rein in burdensome regulations, particularly overregulation of the financial services industry which is impeding the availability of credit in the horse industry and in other sectors of the economy.
Chandler – The horse industry brings $102 billion to the U.S. economy each year. Congress needs to make sure it is doing everything it can to make sure this industry remains competitive. One of the ways that Congress can do that is to ensure that family horse farms stay in the family. In addition, equine health affects every aspect of the industry, and ensuring the horses remain healthy helps bring down the number of injuries to the animals and costs to owners. That's why I've cosponsored several bills throughout my time in Congress to make sure horses are taken care of properly.
4. Why should voters engaged in the horse industry in your district send you to
Washington, D.C., to represent them?
Chandler – There are over 200,000 Kentuckians working with the horse industry, and I have a record of supporting those jobs while in Congress. I am a strong advocate for our horse industry, fighting against powerful interests that seek to cripple it with regulations and to move one of our signature industries to other states. I know the issues that our Kentucky horse industry faces and will continue to fight for Kentucky jobs and prosperity of our horse industry.
Barr – On the first day on the job, I will join the Congressional Horse Caucus, founded by former Sixth District Congressman Ernie Fletcher, and be an advocate for the horse industry in Kentucky and nationwide. The industry has not seen improvement in years and needs a real champion in Congress. As a Congressman, I will draw from a close network of contacts in the industry from both sides of the aisle to help me stay closely connected to the challenges and needs of the industry.
The success of racing nationally impacts the success of our local breeders and improves the economy of the Sixth District. My door will always be open to any racing or breeding organization because it is of critical importance to our local economy. I pledge to meet regularly with industry leaders like the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers, and stay in touch with the America Horse Council.
5. How do you plan to use the megaphone of Kentucky's Sixth District Congressional seat to advocate for the Thoroughbred industry both inside and outside of your district?
Barr – Kentucky's Sixth District is the heart and soul of horse racing and breeding. There is tremendous opportunity to be a leader for the industry as Kentucky's Sixth District Representative, and I will strive to be the industry's strongest advocate in Congress. There is no more important role for any individual member to play than as an advocate for local industries to his colleagues in the House. It will be my priority to educate every member about the industry's impact, not just in Kentucky, but nationally.
Chandler – As a former Chair and current member of the Horse Caucus, I am in a unique position to work on policy that will benefit Kentucky's horse industry. I was honored to receive the American Horse Council's Rolapp Award for outstanding service to the horse industry and will continue this legacy of support for the thoroughbred breeding and racing industry, which is one of the defining cultural and economic forces of the 6th District.
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