Lawmaker, businessman vie for Louisville seat in Congress

Kentucky Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey addresses the media as he accepts an endorsement from Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., right, for his seat in the House of Representatives in Louisville, Ky., Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's only competitive race for Congress is in the district that includes Louisville, the state's largest city and a Democratic stronghold for more than a decade.

State Sen. Morgan McGarvey is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Democrat John Yarmuth, who is retiring after eight terms. Louisville businessman Stuart Ray is hoping to become the first Republican in nearly 20 years to win the congressional seat.

Five incumbent Republicans are expected to cruise to reelection in Kentucky's other congressional districts.

McGarvey has endorsements from Gov. Andy Beshear and Yarmuth, and is the top-ranking Democrat in the Kentucky Senate.

Ray is hoping a national political climate favorable to Republicans will help him in the Democratic-leaning district. President Joe Biden won Louisville/Jefferson County in 2020 with about 59% of the vote.

Ray, who has never run for office, talked about inflation and cutting government spending on the campaign trail. He said the current high inflation rates remind him of the tough economic conditions of the late 1970s.

“Honestly I felt like Joe Biden's economic policies looked similar to the (President Jimmy) Carter era, 40 years ago,” he said. “Our country is hurting.”

Ray said he opposes gun control laws, supports charter schools and believes former President Donald Trump's border wall project should be completed.

McGarvey, a lawyer, campaigned in support of expanding health care, legalizing marijuana and expanding renewable energy to combat climate change.

He said his success in crossing the aisle in Frankfort will help him make progress if Republicans control the House next year.

“I refuse to accept the notion that Washington can’t get things done,” McGarvey said. “I am going to stand up and fight for people and stay true to my values, while working to get things done.”

McGarvey has been critical of a GOP-passed abortion ban in Kentucky, calling it “extreme and cruel,” and has said he wants to see abortion rights codified into federal law. Ray said he favors abortion exceptions for rape and incest. Currently, Kentucky law allows for one exception — if the life of the mother is in danger.

Republican incumbents are expected to maintain their firm grip on the state’s five other congressional districts in a state that has grown more conservative in recent years. U.S. Reps. James Comer, Brett Guthrie, Thomas Massie, Hal Rogers and Andy Barr all hold significant advantages over Democratic challengers.

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