Kemper brings progressive ideals to the Commonwealth


Nancy Jo.jpg

From the pews to hopes of representing the sixth district, Nancy Jo Kemper is no stranger to reaching across the aisle for what she believes in. 

Kemper is a Lexington native, a self proclaimed lifelong UK fan and an advocate for pushing against the hateful rhetoric of modern politics. 

“I went to Transylvania University on a full tuition scholarship where I was editor of the weekly newspaper and considered religious journalism for a while because of my interest for advocacy,” said Kemper. 

While she could have imagined herself going many different routes, she took the opportunity when she was offered a full tuition scholarship to Yale Divinity School. 

“There were 300 men and 30 women so obviously it was really fun,” Kemper joked.

Related: Kreutzer, Smith not your typical homecoming royalty

Kemper attended college during the hey day of social activism and she was called to pursue social justice upon graduation. She got her first job out of seminary working for the Urban League of Greater Little Rock, which offered a unique experience as she was the only white person on staff.

“It was good for me because I got to learn more about the experiences African Americans had and the prejudices they had to deal with. I learned a lot about my own privilege,” Kemper said. 

After serving, Kemper relocated to Connecticut, and split time between participating in feminist activism and doing ministry at several local churches. She quickly broke barriers as one of the first women in the United Church of Christ to serve a church of over 600 members. Kemper did civil rights work in Illinois for a brief stint before coming back to Kentucky in 1991 to do work with Christian organizations.

While it may be surprising that someone so rooted in the church would feel destined for the inner workings of Washington, Kemper says she felt a call to action when last year’s election for governor had an unexpected result.

 “I’ve always kept my eye on politics. When the election last fall was over and Conway had lost so badly it looked really grim for the Kentucky democratic party. When I asked the lieutenant governor who was going to run for the sixth congressional district she said nobody,” said Kemper. “In a flippant way I said I would do it but I didn’t mean it. But as I watched the ugly rhetoric of this election turn in to a toxic stew of sexism, racism, and hate I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. 

Related: Professor simulates TED Talk for students

While some may view her as an outsider, Kemper sees her lack of a political career as a strength.

“Im a Washington outsider. I don’t need to do this. My kids are grown. My house is paid for. Its a privilege that I can do this for the people of the commonwealth of Kentucky in the sixth district,” Kemper said.

She also noted that it was the corruption prevalent in American politics that finally urged her to take a stand and get involved. 

“Our very democracy is being corrupted by the power of money. Corporations are basically getting 80 percent of the legislation passed and human need should always take priority over corporate greed,” Kemper said. 

When it comes to her opponent and current seatholder Andy Barr, Kemper has some strong words.

“Andy has been in this for four years and he had collected more money from corporate donors then the speaker of the house had in his first two years in office. We need somebody who isn’t tied to corporate interest in this district,” Kemper said. 

With an unprecedented background and the fervor of a much younger candidate, Kemper is making her mark on this election whether the commonwealth is ready or not.