U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, declared victory over Republican challenger Andy Barr around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night. With 100 percent of votes counted, the Associated Press said Chandler held a narrow 600-vote lead over Barr.
Chandler, 51, appears to have barely fought off a strong challenge from Republican Andy Barr, 37, a Lexington lawyer making his first run for elected office. If Chandler hangs on, he will win a fifth term despite a coast-to-coast rebellion against Democratic incumbents in Congress.
The National Republican Congressional Committee considered the 6th Congressional District a possible pick-up and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in anti-Chandler commercials. House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio came to Lexington to rally with Barr last month.
But it ultimately was not enough to unseat Chandler, the scion of a Kentucky Democratic political family with 20 years experience in state politics and the power of the government purse behind him.
Chandler is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which decides federal spending. Much of his campaign consisted of check presentations and ribbon cuttings around the district as he extolled the many projects he helped fund.
"I make no apologies for those things, regardless of the atmosphere," Chandler said in September, minutes after he announced a $2.4 million budget earmark to pay for research at Eastern Kentucky University. "It's an easy call when you consider what sort of value these projects are going to bring to their communities."
The race initially was projected as another easy win for Chandler, a member of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition. He previously won re-election handily; in 2006, the Republicans didnt even bother to field an opponent.
But in recent months, it swung toward "toss-up" as the economy continued to sour voters' mood and an anti-incumbent wave threatened many officeholders, particularly Democrats.
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