Democrat Jim Gray officially enters race against U.S. Sen. Rand Paul

01/26/2016 11:42 AM

FRANKFORT — Democratic Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has filed to challenge U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in the fall, becoming Kentucky’s first openly gay candidate for statewide office on Tuesday.

Gray, whose family earned its wealth in the construction industry, has served as Lexington’s mayor since 2010, but he harkened back to his family’s roots in the south-central town of Glasgow.

“Regrettably and unfortunately that reality’s not what it used to be for a lot of Kentuckians,” Gray, surrounded by his family outside Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office, told reporters. “That reality, the American dream is slipping away, and unfortunately Washington is part of the problem. Washington is broken.”

He did not mention Paul by name in front of the media and did not take questions following his statement, but he said in a video announcement that the first-term senator from Bowling Green and GOP presidential candidate “offers ideas that will weaken our country at home and abroad, and he puts himself and his own ambitions above Kentucky.”

Doug Stafford, Paul’s senior advisor, disagreed with Gray’s assessment of Paul’s time in the Senate.

“As Senator Rand Paul prepares for re-election, he hopes voters will remember his tireless work to balance the budget, his fight against President Obama’s War on Coal, his fight against Obamacare, and that Senator Paul has returned to the taxpayer over $2 million from his office budget,” Stafford said in a statement.

Gray’s run will be the first test of an openly gay statewide candidate, particularly in socially conservative pockets of the state.

He touched on his record as Lexington mayor in his remarks Tuesday, and he has personal wealth that he can tap into through Gray Construction. As of Sept. 30, Paul had $1.4 million in his Senate campaign account.

Observers also believe Gray’s sexual orientation will be a bonus as he courts national donors.

Paul and Gray join two Republicans and four Democrats in the U.S. Senate field.

If Tuesday marked a milestone for openly gay political candidates in Kentucky, Gray didn’t acknowledge it. Instead, he laid out why he wants to represent the commonwealth in Congress.

“What I am running for is to build that American dream, restore that American dream for every family in Kentucky,” Gray said.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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