UPDATED: Rand Paul faces first wave of attack ads in Senate race

10/11/2016 12:03 PM

UPDATED Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray and the super PAC supporting him released a pair of television attack ads on Tuesday against U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, leaning in part on the words of Republicans to get their points across.

Both spots start with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump criticizing Kentucky’s junior senator and former presidential candidate.

In Gray’s 30-second spot that focuses on defense issues, the New York business mogul calls Paul “a disaster on military and defense” before transitioning to similar comments from Arizona Sen. John McCain, Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“He simply does not have an understanding about the threats of United States national security,” McCain said during an April 2015 appearance on Fox News.

The ad, which highlights Paul’s opposition to the Patriot Act and previously proposed defense spending cuts, can be viewed here:

Gray’s campaign spokeswoman Cathy Lindsey said the ad is part of a $325,000 statewide buy that will air on broadcast and cable markets, as well as on the Web.

“Rand Paul is a jaw flapper who has spent six years in Washington doing two things, running his mouth and running for President (he failed at both). While he thinks he can fool the people of Kentucky, his fellow Republicans know the truth: Rand Paul would make our country weaker,” Lindsey said in a statement.

“Kentuckians deserve better than a senator who is willing to weaken America’s National Security just to promote himself. Paul asks for attention while running for President, but continues to ignore Kentuckians at home.”

Paul’s campaign pushed back against Gray’s ad, pointing to Paul’s 2013 budget proposal that called for yearly increases in military spending, albeit not at levels proposed by other Republicans and President Barack Obama, according to PolitiFact.

“Nothing says desperate, typical politician more than using debunked claims to mislead Kentuckians who already know Dr. Rand Paul stands for a strong national defense and actually proposed an increase in defense spending,” Paul spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper said in a statement. “He has always said that national security is the most important function of our federal government, and he will continue defending Kentucky, our nation, and our liberties.”

Gray’s campaign relied on Paul’s 2011 budget proposal, which called on defense spending reductions estimated at up to 30 percent, according to PolitiFact.

Kentucky Moving Forward, a Democratic super PAC supporting Gray, also went up with a spot criticizing Paul’s unsuccessful presidential run.

In that spot, posted on the group’s website, Trump lashes out a Paul during a September 2015 GOP presidential primary debate on his polling numbers, saying he “shouldn’t even be on this stage.”

A female narrator goes on to attack Paul for being “more than $300,000 in debt from his presidential campaign” after showing a video of him calling the national debt “the greatest threat to our national security” during a December primary debate.

“Rand Paul is just a typical politician,” the female narrator says. “Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has been a success. He has created thousands of jobs and turned a deficit into a surplus.”

The ad is part of a $150,000 buy in the Louisville, Bowling Green, Hazard, Paducah, Evansville and Huntington broadcast markets, according to Kentucky Moving Forward spokesman Jared Smith, and can be viewed here:

Cooper said that Paul “has a strong record of always standing for Kentucky and defending us from the Clinton-Obama agenda Jim Gray supports, which is why Gray and his allies are willing to say anything to distract Kentuckians from his failing campaign.”

“The fact is, Rand Paul has stood up time and time again, for AK Steel jobs, for Lake Cumberland water, and for our military at Ft. Campbell and Ft. Knox,” she said in a statement. “Dr. Paul has a 96% voting record and is the author of over 400 bills and amendments, making him among the hardest working members of Congress.”

Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Kentucky accused Gray, mayor of Lexington, of reaping the benefits from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s issuance of $7 million in government loans for 21c Museum Hotels’ expansion in downtown Lexington.

The council approved a $1 million Urban Development Action Grant in October 2012 and a $6 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in June 2014.

Steve Wilson, co-founder of 21c Museum Hotels, serves as treasurer of Kentucky Moving Forward.

“Mayor Jim Gray is finally getting his well-earned back scratch for his support of the ritzy 21c Museum Hotel,” RPK spokesman Tres Watson said in a statement.

“Mayor Gray is clearly benefitting from a shady business deal stamped in government ink, all the while he’s worked to stall the completion of their direct competition across the street: CentrePointe. This crony deal is the definition of what’s wrong with this rigged system and Mayor Gray should be disqualified from holding office for his part in this kickback scheme.”

Gray’s campaign called RPK’s accusation “absurd.”

“The 21C project in Lexington brought life to an historic building in the heart of downtown and created hundreds of good jobs,” Lindsey said in an email. “Mayor Gray is proud of his record of bringing good jobs to Lexington.”

The campaign also released a statement from Republican Bill Farmer, a nine-term member of the council, who said the panel “was proud to support the 21C Hotel project that brought jobs and much needed activity to one of Lexington’s most historic properties.”

“Mayor Gray draws support from many quarters and his record of encouraging quality job creation is clear. To say that he treated this win-win project differently is both absurd and untrue,” Farmer said.

21c Museum Hotels did not return a request for comment, and Kentucky Moving Forward declined to respond.

GOP group also hitting airwaves in state House races

The barrage against Paul comes as another group jumps into the state House races.

GOPAC announced $100,000 in television ad buys in four races on Monday: the 12th House District seat held by Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence; the 16th House District seat held by Rep. Martha Jane King, D-Lewisburg; the open 23rd House District seat; and the 62nd House District seat held by Rep. Chuck Tackett, D-Georgetown.

The group sees Kentucky’s House as one of its best opportunities for Republicans to take control of a state legislative chamber. Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority in the House.

“GOPAC is committed to aiding Kentucky Republicans in ending Democratic control over the Kentucky House of Representatives,” GOPAC Chairman David Avella said in a statement.

“With Democrats increasingly out of step with conservative values found in Kentucky and across the South, GOPAC and Kentucky Republicans are hard at work to gain a Republican majority in the House, and ultimately, a Republican government trifecta in Kentucky.”

The super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership is also spending six figures to boost some Republican House candidates on the TV airwaves, and a Democratic super PAC, Kentucky Family Values, is helping certain Democrats with Web ads.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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