Jack Conway to highlight differences with Rand Paul over fighting drugs

08/16/2010 04:49 PM

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway plans to use the issue of federal funding for fighting the scourge of drugs to counter Republican Rand Paul’s main argument that the government spending must be cut back across the board.

In addition, Conway said he will highlight Paul’s comments this summer about the federally-funded drug treatment and enforcement program, Operation UNITE. Paul told local officials at a forum last month that the issue should be “treated and paid for at the local level.”

“(Rand Paul) doesn’t get Kentucky,” Conway told reporters on a conference call Monday. “He doesn’t get this issue.”

Conway, who received the endorsement of the statewide Fraternal Order of Police on Monday, again criticized Paul’s statements about Operation UNITE in Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District. Conway said one of his chief messages to voters would be that Paul’s views would “hurt Kentuckians.”

“The first responsibility of government is to provide security for its citizens,” Conway said. “(Paul’s stance) will be highlighted. Will it be in ads? I’m not sure yet. But we have to (fight drug crime) in a more bipartisan way. (Paul’s) policies are so stark, they would hurt Kentuckians, so you’ll see more of it. It’s surely an issue I’ll highlight going forward.”

Paul received public criticism last week after the Associated Press reported that Paul said the issue of illegal drug abuse in Eastern Kentucky wasn’t a “real pressing issue.” Paul later told the Herald-Leader that his quote was taken out of context and said he was referring to reform of the federal judicial process when it came to handling drug-related cases.

But Conway said Monday that Paul’s clarification cleared up very little.

“He’s really confusing the issue,” Conway said. “He has not done an adequate job clarifying his position.”

Paul’s campaign didn’t have an immediate comment. His campaign manager Jesse Benton asked for questions to be submitted in writing in order for the campaign to respond to this article. It is cn|2 Politics’ policy not to conduct interviews in writing. Benton did not respond to a second request for a telephone interview.

Eastern Kentucky officials have long described the problem of illegal drug abuse and trafficking as a scourge.

The 5th Congressional District is represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, who helped create and has led the funding effort for Operation UNITE. Rogers endorsed Paul’s primary opponent, Trey Grayson, this spring but stood behind Paul during a GOP unity rally after the May 18 primary. Still, the latest statewide cn|2 Poll shows the U.S. Senate race is up for grabs in that Eastern Kentucky district with more than 36% of respondents in that region saying they were undecided.

On Conway’s teleconference with statewide media on Monday, Michael “Spike” Jones, president of the state FOP, said that without federal funding for drug enforcement programs that officers all over the state would be laid off or local police forces “wouldn’t be able to keep up with drug crime.”

“You don’t go out for an eight-hour shift and get all these drug arrests,” Jones said. “That’s not how it works. It takes a lot of investigative work and that takes overtime.”

—Kenny Colston


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