FRANKFORT — Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway blasted Republican opponent Rand Paul Monday for questioning aspects of a 20-year-old federal act that makes it illegal to discriminate against the disabled.
Conway said it was ironic that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose father, President George H.W. Bush, championed and signed the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990, was holding a $1,000-a-person private fund-raiser Monday night for Paul's campaign in Louisville.
Conway accused Jeb Bush of "tarnishing the family legacy."
"What a shame it is 20 years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act, we would have a major candidate for the United States Senate stand up, stand up and say that he is against the Americans With Disabilities Act," Conway, the state's attorney general, said to loud cheers from a crowd of more than 100 in the Capitol Rotunda who were observing the legislation's anniversary.
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon making his first bid for public office, expressed misgivings about the ADA to a liberal blogger days before his May primary election victory. He repeated those concerns to National Public Radio the day after winning the May 18 primary.
"I think a lot of things could be handled locally," Paul told NPR without specifically calling for repeal of the ADA.
"For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps," Paul said. "I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator.
"And I think when you get to solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions."
Conway said Paul is "ignorant" about provisions of the ADA because it does not require most buildings that are two stories tall to have elevators.
Paul's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, said in a statement that a "desperate" Conway is trying to distort Paul's views.
As a doctor, Paul "spends much of his time treating the blind, restoring eyesight and treating victims of many types of disabilities," Benton said. "He is deeply attuned to needs and struggles of the disabled, and to imply otherwise is a cheap political stunt by his opponent."
Efforts to reach Bush for comment in Miami were not successful.
Pamela Roark-Glisson, executive director of the ADA Action Network of Kentucky and director of Independence Place, a center in Lexington for disabled people to live independently, said both candidates were invited to the Capitol event but the Paul campaign never replied.