ANOTHER SETBACK FOR GOP’S MINORITY OUTREACH…. Republican officials have high hopes about Andy Barr’s chances in Kentucky’s 6th congressional district. Incumbent Rep. Ben Chandler (D) is perceived as potentially vulnerable, so the GOP establishment are investing heavily in Barr, a young, Lexington-area attorney.
It was of some interest to Democrats, then, to learn that Barr is an active, life-long member of a country club that was all-white up until very recently.
Barr campaign manager John Connell confirmed to POLITICO that Barr belongs to the Idle Hour Country Club, an 85-year-old Lexington institution. Barr’s family is active in the club, Connell said, and the candidate is a life-long member.
Barr, an attorney, has been viewed by national Republicans as a promising recruit against Chandler, and the National Republican Congressional Committee named him to the top tier of its “Young Guns” program for promising recruits last week.
But Barr’s country club membership puts a potentially embarrassing mark on his biography. In 1999, Kentucky’s Human Rights Commission launched an investigation into the membership policies of Idle Hour and other exclusive clubs, though the case was eventually abandoned.
College basketball fans may recall a recent controversy surrounding Idle Hour, when University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari declined to join because of its all-white membership. Last year, the country club accepted its first black member — retired basketball star Sam Bowie.
And if Barr’s name seems familiar, it’s because the Kentucky Republican was recently asked on camera whether he agrees with Rand Paul’s criticism of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Barr wouldn’t answer, and quickly walked away from the voter who asked.
I’m reminded of a comment RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who conceded that his party relied on a racially-divisive “Southern Strategy” for at least four decades, made when asked why African-American voters should support Republican candidates. “You really don’t have a reason to, to be honest,” Steele said.