Senate hopefuls squabble about terrorism, coal

jbrammer@herald-leader.comNovember 20, 2009 

LOUISVILLE — Republicans Trey Grayson and Rand Paul exchanged sharp words on the issue of Guantánamo Bay, and Democrats Jack Conway and Daniel Mongiardo squabbled about their alliances with coal.

During a heated forum for U.S. Senate candidates Thursday at a Kentucky Association of Counties conference, Secretary of State Grayson criticized Bowling Green eye surgeon Paul for supporting President Obama's policy of closing the $200-million detention facility for terrorists at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

Grayson's supporters distributed copies of a page on Paul's campaign Web site in May that said Paul "couldn't agree more" with a comment by U.S. Military Chief Mike Mullen that Guantánamo should be shut down.

Paul, the son of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who ran unsuccessfully for president last year, responded that Grayson should learn how to read.

In a later interview, Paul said the Web site Grayson referred to did not accurately state his position on Guantánamo.

He said the comment attributed to him was on a Web site that two students had used to draft him as a candidate and that the information was not correct.

Paul also apologized for saying Grayson should learn how to read.

"I lost my temper," Paul said. "He was just saying things about me that were not true."

Later Thursday, Paul's campaign posted a statement on his Web site that said he disagreed with the administration's decision to close the Guantánamo center and try terrorism suspects in U.S. civil courts.

"Foreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of our Constitution," Paul said. "These thugs should stand before military tribunals and be kept off American soil. I will always fight to keep Kentucky safe."

The two leading Democratic candidates in the Senate race — Attorney General Conway and Lt. Gov. Mongiardo — traded barbs about coal.

Mongiardo repeated his claim that Conway supports federal cap-and-trade legislation that would cap greenhouse-gas emissions and allow companies that release less to sell credits to companies that pollute more.

Conway said that was false.

He said he would never do anything to hurt Kentucky coal and that his view on cap-and-trade was misrepresented by a newspaper headline.

"I guess my opponent thinks every headline is right," Conway said.

Mongiardo also said Conway has invested up to $4.98 million in a Texas-based energy company that wants to do away with coal.

Conway noted that Mongiardo has invested in a natural gas company.

Conway's campaign declined to say exactly how much he has invested. His federal disclosure form for 2008 listed it as between $1 million and $5 million.

Kim Geveden, a spokesman for Mongiardo, said Mongiardo invested $24,000 in a natural gas company in 1993.

Other candidates speaking at the forum were Democrats Maurice Sweeney of Eastwood and former U.S. Customs agent Darlene Fitzgerald Price of McCreary County and Republicans Bill Johnson of Todd County, Brian Oerther of Oldham County and Roger Thoney of Northern Kentucky.

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