Senate hopefuls start to campaign

jbrammer@herald-leader.comAugust 1, 2009 

CALVERT CITY — In the wake of U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning's decision not to seek re-election, Secretary of State Trey Greyson campaigned in Western Kentucky on Friday, espousing conservative beliefs.

Republicans and Democrats both held events Friday in advance of Saturday's Fancy Farm picnic that signals the beginning of the campaign season. Political speeches start at 3 p.m.

Grayson, who is expected to make his Republican campaign for the U.S. Senate official in a few weeks, told a crowd of about 100 at the Calvert City Civic Center that he understands their concerns about President Obama's energy and health care legislation and attacks on guns, right-to-life views and traditional marriage.

"Maybe that's why you have trouble sleeping," he said.

Grayson's comments came after the Lexington Herald-Leader reported this week that some Republicans in the state were concerned whether Grayson, a former Democrat, were a true conservative.

"I am a conservative," Grayson told reporters before his speech. An aide noted that Grayson was endorsed in his elections for secretary of state by the National Rifle Association and Right to Life.

Also sounding conservative themes at the GOP rally were two others eyeing Bunning's Senate seat — Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul, the son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and Bill Johnson, a Navy veteran and businessman from Todd County.

Paul, who, like Grayson, has formed an exploratory committee for the race, said he is a likely candidate and may announce soon his intentions.

When asked whether he plans to announce his candidacy on the Fox TV national show with Glenn Beck, Paul said he is working to get the biggest audience to hear his message.

An announcement on national TV could reap more campaign funds for him, especially from supporters of his father's unsuccessful campaign for president last year.

Paul said his campaign was "about smaller government and balanced budgets." He pledged never to vote for an unbalanced budget and to support term limits.

Johnson said, to loud applause: "Washington is getting far into our lives."

Bunning, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1999, announced on Monday that he has decided not to seek a third term.

Meanwhile on Friday night, a smaller-than-usual crowd of Democrats gathered at the Kentucky Dam Village Convention Center. With no elections on the ballot come November and Gov. Steve Beshear on vacation, the typically packed bean soup supper was a quieter affair than in years past.

All eyes were on U.S. Senate candidates Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo and Attorney General Jack Conway.

Conway talked about his family's roots in Western Kentucky and touted his accomplishments as attorney general. Conway promised to promote fiscal responsibility if he's elected.

Also, "we need to focus on education," Conway said. In particular, Kentucky should develop an early education program, he added.

Mongiardo, who narrowly lost to Republican U.S. Senator Jim Bunning in 2004, pledged to take back the Senate seat for the Democratic Party. Mongiardo pledged to protect the Kentucky coal industry. "We want to protect the environment," without putting a tax on coal, Mongiardo said.

Mongiardo, a doctor, also pledged to be leader in reforming the nation's health care system.

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