Democrats (minus Mongiardo) rip Paul's views at state party meeting

06/19/2010 04:23 PM

FRANKFORT — Top Democrats, led by U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway, offered the most detailed glimpses so far of how they plan to draw a sharp contrast this fall with Republican candidate Rand Paul during a meeting with party leaders Saturday.

“Kentucky and the nation cannot afford Rand Paul,” Conway said during a 10-minute speech at the Kentucky Democratic Party’s state central executive committee meeting.

Seizing on some of Paul’s public statements, Conway ran down a list of issues where he said the views of his Republican rival could be harmful to voters, including disabled Kentuckians, farmers and students.

“Think about that: This man is about just about every government program except those that feather his own personal nest,” Conway said — an apparent reference to the fact that Paul, an ophthalmologist, has said he favors the government increasing Medicare reimbursement for doctors.

Conway addressed other specific areas of contrast:

  • “If you’re a disabled person — if you’ve been hurt or injured in one of these two wars where we have veterans coming back right now — then you cannot afford Rand Paul because he would say: ‘Just take your office on the first floor of the building. There’s no need for ramps or for elevators to get you to your colleagues, and we don’t need the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Conway said.

While Paul hasn’t called for the repeal of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he did write in June 6 column submitted to the Bowling Green Daily News that he is concerned about areas of such federal laws that might hurt small businessses:

For example, should a small business in a two-story building have to put in a costly elevator, even if it threatens their economic viability? Wouldn’t it be better to allow that business to give a handicapped employee a ground floor office? We need more businesses and jobs, not fewer.

But the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t mandate two-story buildings to have elevators, and instead, has set up ways to work with businesses and customers and employees who have disabilities.

  • Conway said farmers in Western Kentucky “can’t afford Rand Paul because he disagrees with just about all of the programs of the Department of Agriculture” including subsidies for crops such as soy beans and corn.

Paul told the Associated Press the day after the May 18 primary that he didn’t “like the idea of subsidizing businesses of any sort.”

“I think business should stand on its own two feet. A lot of the farm subsidies go to multimillion-dollar corporations, and I don’t think the average citizen should pay taxes to support multimillion-dollar corporations.

Farmers in Western Kentucky could be a key group in the election. In several recent statewide elections, including the last two U.S. Senate races, voters in that region have given the edge to Republicans even though a majority of voters are registered as Democrats.

Conway acknowleged that many people still only “know me as Rand Paul’s opponent,” so he told the activists that the challenge will be to get his message out.  That message, he said, includes reining in government spending, which has consistently been a cornerstone of Paul’s campaign and part of what endeared Paul to voters worried and frustrated over government debt.

“I want people to know that I’m a fiscally responsible Democrat. I’m concerned about spending,” Conway said.

Conway cited as an example his suggestion for a 20 percent tax credit to businesses that expand their payroll at a price tag to the government of $30 billion. He told cn|2 Politics later that he favors offsetting that cost by closing a loophole in the tax laws that allow companies to squirrel away income in offshore tax havens.

UPDATED 6:11 p.m.: Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager, issued a statement later Saturday in response to cn|2 Politics’ request for comment saying Conway calling himself a fiscal conservative was “laughable” because, among other things, Conway doesn’t oppose the health care bill Congress passed in March.

“Conway would be nothing but a rubber stamp for the big government agenda of Barrack (sic) Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid,” Benton’s statement said. “Rand Paul will stand up to the liberal Washington agenda … Rand Paul will fight to repeal Obama Care, oppose Cap and Trade, and to implement term limits for career politicians.”

While Conway has criticized Paul in a smattering of interviews he’s done since the May 18 primary, so far he hasn’t been overly aggressive with online or traditional campaigning to drum up support, awareness or donations.

But Conway and Gov. Steve Beshear said they expect those efforts to ramp up soon.

“We’re going to be on the offense for the people of Kentucky,” Conway told cn|2 Politics.

Beshear criticized Paul for his opinion on the British Petroleum oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Paul has said BP should be responsible but has expressed concern that President Barack Obama’s administration has been too focused on blaming the company.

“We are running in the Senate race against the only person I know of who agrees with this Texas Congressman that the administration in Washington is not fairly treating BP,” Beshear said, referring to U.S. Rep. Joe Barton’s apology to BP at a hearing in this week.

Beshear said this fall’s Senate election is one of the most important “if not the most important” in a generation.

Democratic Party Chairman Charlie Moore, who is stepping down June 30, took an even harsher tone.

“It would be an abomination to send Rand Paul to the United States Senate,” Moore said.

The party’s state central executive committee, made up of party leaders from across the state, convened at the Democrats’ party headquarters Saturday morning to elect new party chairman Dan Logsdon and lay the groundwork for the fall race. Activists huddled in a strategy meeting Saturday afternoon.

Among those not attending was Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who also didn’t send a representative to speak on his behalf.

Mongiardo, who has spent much of his time in Hazard since his slim May 18 loss to Conway, hasn’t spoken publicly has spoken publicly sparingly since the loss and declined an interview request with cn|2 Politics on Friday, the only day in a two-week stretch between June 14 and June 28 that he was scheduled to work at his Frankfort office. (He gave a speech June 11 at the Purchase Area Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Calloway County).

“Daniel Mongiardo is going to be supporting all the Democrats this fall, including Jack Conway,” Beshear told cn|2 Politics after the meeting.

Conway said Mongiardo has offered his support.

“We’re coming together,” Conway said. “I talked to Daniel. Daniels’ going to be with us.”

He likened the results of the primary to the end of the movie “Rocky” in which Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa bloodied each other up after 15 rounds.

“The two fighters collapse into each other,” Conway said. “And Appollo says, ‘There ain’t going to be no rematch.’ And Rocky says back: ‘Don’t want one.‘ That’s how I feel.”

COMING MONDAY: VIDEO FROM SATURDAY’S MEETINGONLY ON cn|2 POLITICS

- Ryan Alessi

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