Paul declines to address Trump immigration comments, says he won't "be distracted by others"

07/13/2015 06:40 PM

After reiterating his pitch for ways to lift impoverished areas like Louisville’s West End on Monday, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul again declined to discuss controversial remarks by fellow GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump about undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

Paul visited the Plymouth Community Renewal Center, where he ate lunch with participants in a summer youth camp before talking with a smaller group of African-American teenagers about civics and issues facing their communities, such as crime and education.

Although Paul has stopped at the center a few times, Monday marked his first visit as a presidential candidate.

After speaking about proposals such as economic freedom zones and offering vacant housing to developers who would then resell properties at drastically reduced prices, Paul declined to discuss Trump’s comments that while some Mexicans crossing the southern U.S. border illegally may be good people, most are violent criminals sent specifically by the Mexican government.

Paul demurred when asked about Trump’s comments and whether he believed they would hurt the GOP in next year’s presidential race, saying he must “be my own person and do what I do.”

“I have economic freedom zones as a policy position,” he said. “I’ve introduced it as legislation, and what it would do, it would dramatically lower taxes. For Louisville, somewhere between $400 million and $600 million would remain in Louisville if we were to pass my economic freedom zones. I just have to keep talking about what I’m talking and not be distracted by others.”

A number of businesses severed partnerships with Trump, and Republicans like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney have chided the New York real estate mogul for his remarks.

Still, Trump has leapfrogged Paul and others in the crowded GOP pack in recent polls since entering the race June 16.

According to an an aggregate by Real Clear Politics, Trump is currently third in the 15-person field with an average of 9.3 percent support in polling between June 14 and July 12 with Paul in seventh place with 7.3 percent backing. Trump polled second in recent surveys conducted by Monmouth University, released Monday, and CNN, released July 1.

While trailing in GOP polls, Paul points to his strong numbers against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Paul led Clinton 44 percent to 41 percent in Colorado and 43 percent to 42 percent in Iowa, according to an April Quinnipiac University survey; 47 percent to 43 percent in New Hampshire, according to a May poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center; and 45 percent to 44 percent in Pennsylvania, with both tied at 43 percent in Ohio, according to a June Quinnipiac University poll.

“I think that shows our ability to reach out to independent voters,” Paul said. “… In Michigan, where I was last weekend, we are the Republican that does the best against Hillary Clinton as well.”

Clinton holds a 3-point lead on Paul in Michigan, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released June 30.

Paul, who told reporters his presidential campaign would draw him to New Hampshire rather than the annual Fancy Farm picnic Aug. 1, also declined to discuss his views on Kentucky county clerks who have declined to issue marriage licenses in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that allows same-sex couples to wed.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was heard in U.S. District Court in Ashland on Monday, but Paul told reporters he had been traveling and hadn’t seen arguments in the case.

Davis is one of a few county clerks who have refused to issue marriage licenses to any couple, citing their religious objection to same-sex marriage.

As he was leaving the Plymouth Community Renewal Center, Paul was asked whether he believed county clerks could constitutionally deny marriage licenses, but he said he was “not a legal authority” on the subject.


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