All eyes on Kentucky U.S. Senate race on eve of election
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — The national media are flocking to Kentucky to see if Tea Party movement favorite Rand Paul can capture the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday and rattle the state’s GOP establishment.
Meanwhile, the Democratic race for U.S. Senate in the state between Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and Attorney Jack Conway is going down to the mire as well as the wire.
Kentucky voters will go to the polls Tuesday to select their party nominees for the Nov. 2 general election. They will be voting on congressional races, dozens of state legislative races a handful of judicial races and numerous local races, included mayoral primaries in Lexington and Louisville.
Voter turnout in Kentucky is expected to be about 30 percent, said Les Fugate of the secretary of state’s office.
The most attention will be on the U.S. Senate races.
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon who has tapped into the anti-tax, small-government fervor of the Tea Party movement, is attracting heavy national media interest in his race against Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
Paul was on the front pages Monday of the New York Times and USA Today and was interviewed by Fox News, among others.
Grayson told The Washington Post Monday that Fox News “has all but endorsed Paul and given him an easy way to tout his candidacy without actually meeting Kentucky voters in person.”
Grayson said he’s been on Fox News only once while Paul is “on all of the time.”
Grayson is scheduled to be interviewed Tuesday morning by Fox.
Several national media outlets have scheduled interviews Tuesday night with Paul and his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008.
The elder Paul attended church in Bowling Green with his son and his son’s family Sunday and will be at the Bowling Green victory rally Tuesday night, said Paul campaign manager David Adams.
“The media interest is unbelievable,” said Adams. “Fox News is to have a live truck with us on election night. We’ve also heard from CNN, even the BBC, a whole bunch.”
Adams attributed the out-of-state media interest to the Tea Party movement.
Stephanie Kelly, media relations director for Fox Business Network in New York City, said the Kentucky Republican race is “interesting because of the Tea Party, Ron Paul and the endorsements.”
Candidate Paul has been endorsed by retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate, but the state’s top Republican, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville, and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, whose 5th Congressional District is the most Republican in the state, are siding with Grayson.
With all the national interest, might the younger Paul have presidential ambitions?
“He’s asking everyone to vote for him Tuesday,” Adams said when asked Monday if candidate Paul wants to be president someday.
Paul, who is making his first bid for public office, spent Monday doing radio interviews on stations in Paducah, Bowling Green and Lexington and attending a rally in Bowling Green.
Grayson scheduled a fly-around, with stops at Hebron in Northern Kentucky, Louisville, Owensboro, Paducah, Hopkinsville, Bowling Green, Somerset and Lexington.
While most recent polls show Paul with double-digit leads over Grayson, the Democratic contest is in a statistical dead heat.
The race between Mongiardo and Conway intensified over the weekend when Mongiardo claimed without any proof that Conway was behind recorded telephone messages that falsely said Mongiardo supports legislation that would put mandatory caps on carbon emissions from coal-burning plants.
Conway denied any involvement with the calls.
Mongiardo and Conway had full campaign schedules Monday.
Mongiardo had stops in Louisville, Liberty, Danville, Stanton, Frankfort, Georgetown and Lexington.
Conway started the day campaigning in Owensboro with former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford and then went to Bowling Green. In Lexington late in the day, Conway campaigned with Ford and state Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington. He finished the day, working a phone bank with volunteers at his campaign headquarters in Louisville.