Jim Gray talks Trump and primary challenges as he continues campaign rollout

12/06/2017 06:34 PM

WINCHESTER — Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said Wednesday that he could support parts of President Donald Trump’s agenda if he’s elected to Congress, but he offered pointed criticism of the tax reform proposal that’s currently being negotiated by the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

Gray continued his campaign rollout, speaking with supporters at Clark County Fiscal Court about his decision to enter the 6th Congressional District’s Democratic primary. Four Democrats are now vying for the opportunity to face Republican Congressman Andy Barr in the 2018 midterms.

He said he believes Trump “could be more effective if he did less tweeting,” calling his off-the-cuff musings on social media “divisive.”

Still, there are some areas in which Gray says he can support the president, namely infrastructure investment.

“I absolutely would,” he said. “Now, I also believe that our taxing structure should be fair to everybody. I told the story just earlier about a friend of mine who’s very wealthy, and he described this tax bill as the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in his lifetime. That’s not good for America. We need people, middle-class people having opportunities. We need those who today don’t see opportunity to find a path to opportunity.”

Gray also described Trump’s decision on Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to relocate a U.S. embassy there as one that could be “very troubling” given the history of conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

“We all need to be careful,” he said. “I also know that it’s going to take time for that to get done, and he’s known to change his mind.”

The 2018 congressional race is Gray’s second federal campaign since his failed bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in 2016. He lost that race by nearly 15 points but carried the 6th Congressional District by about 2 percent of the vote, a district that Barr has won by at least 20 points in his previous two re-election campaigns.

But Gray will compete in a more heavily contested primary in next year’s race. Amy McGrath, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marines, reported more than $551,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 30 and state Sen. Reggie Thomas reported some $78,000 left in the bank through the latest fundraising period.

Gray has shown a willingness to invest his own resources in his campaigns, loaning his U.S. Senate campaign $2.5 million in the 2016 cycle.

Asked how much he’s planning to loan his campaign in the upcoming primary, Gray didn’t give a figure.

“We’ll have a budget,” he said. “We’ll develop that budget, and we’ll have the resources that we need to engage a campaign.”

With a more tightly fought primary on the horizon, Gray said he looks forward to the intraparty challenge and that he believes primaries only improve successful candidates’ performances heading into general elections.

He also dismissed criticism levied by McGrath campaign manager Mark Nickolas in a Facbook post last month, which took Gray to task for rising murder rates in Lexington since he was sworn in as mayor in 2011.

Gray called that line of attack “a red herring.”

“What we’ve done in Lexington is we have addressed crime intentionally and deliberately,” Gray said. “We have more police on the streets today in Lexington than we’ve ever had, 630. We’ve equipped all of our police with good equipment.”

“We’re working on all of the issues associated with crime in every dimension, and that includes drugs,” he added. “At the root of so much crime in our country today are drugs, the opioid epidemic.”

Asked whether he has received any support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Gray said he would welcome help “from anyone.”

He also said he felt good about his position in the race when asked about internal polling in a potential matchup against Barr.

“I wouldn’t be in this race if I didn’t feel good about it,” Gray said. “I don’t like tilting at windmills. Not going to do that, not going to waste my time, so we feel very good about the race, where we are today and where we’re going to be.”

Democratic voters in the 19-county district will elect their nominee May 22.


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