Paul causes campaign's first stir with Civil Rights answer

05/20/2010 07:46 PM

Only two days old, the general election campaign for the open U.S. Senate seat already has become a breeding ground for controversy that has gotten the White House’s attention.

Rand Paul (R) and Atty. Gen. Jack Conway (D)

Republican candidate Rand Paul spent all day Thursday answering questions and  defending his views on the Civil Rights Act after saying publicly on the Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday night, for instance, that he questioned whether the Civil Rights Act may have gone too far by telling private owners how to run their businesess by requiring desegregation.

Democratic candidate Jack Conway, as well as other Democrats, wasted no time trying to capitalize.

“Rand Paul is promoting a narrow and rigid ideology and has repeatedly rejected a fundamental provision of the Civil Rights Act,” Conway said in a news release. “He is focused on the Tea Party whereas I am running to be a senator for all the people of Kentucky, who are really hurting right now.”

Even White House spokesman Robert Gibbs weighed in, which sent the Washington media into a frenzy. (The Hill and ABC News blog are among the throngs of outlets chasing the Kentucky Senate story).

Paul issued a statement Thursday saying he didn’t mean that the Civil Rights Act should be repealed.

“I believe we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person,” Paul said in the release. “I have clearly stated in prior interviews that I abhor racial discrimination and would have worked to end segregation. Even though this matter was settled when I was 2, and no serious people are seeking to revisit it except to score cheap political points, I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

At the same time, a new Rasmussen poll shows Paul with a 25 percent lead over Conway. The poll is the first time Paul, who has polled above Conway in previous hypothetical matchups, has polled over 50 percent of the vote.

The poll has a 4.5 percent margin of error.

Paul, meanwhile, has tried to stay on the offensive by positioning himself as the outsider trying to topple a “Washington D.C. candidate” for the second race in a row.

While Conway has never been elected to a national office before, Paul has cited Conway’s support of the health care legislation passed last month as at least one credential of already being part of Washington politics. Conway had previously run for the U.S. 3rd District seat against Anne Northup in 2002.

Paul has invited President Barack Obama to come campaign for Conway, as part of his strategy, going as far as to say that he would pay to fly the president to Kentucky. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly followed suit, finding common ground with Paul. McConnell, however, was one of the ways Paul tied his primary opponent, Trey Grayson, to Washington during the GOP race because McConnell and other Republican leaders backed Grayson.

On Thursday, Conway told cn|2 Politics he would welcome the president if he offered to come to Kentucky.

“I don’t think its fair (Paul’s comparsion),” Conway said. “But whenever the president comes to your state you welcome him. Now, I don’t agree with the president on everything, but if he came he would be welcomed.”

- Kenny Colston

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Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.


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