When Rand Paul began his first bid for the U.S. Senate in 2009, the Republican ran his fledgling campaign out of a room in his ophthalmologist office in Bowling Green.
Blessed with a well-known political name — his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, was a three-time candidate for president — and an avalanche of support from the Tea Party, Paul captured almost 60 percent of the Republican primary vote in May 2010.
Six years later, Paul is known across the nation thanks to his failed bid for president and is expected to win easily in Tuesday’s GOP primary election for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky. Seven Democrats are battling to face the GOP nominee in the November general election.
Paul’s two challengers Tuesday — retired Navy veteran James R. Gould of Lexington and chemical engineer Stephen Howard Slaughter of Louisville — do not enjoy the high name recognition and campaign war chest of about $1.5 million that Paul claims.
Paul has become more well-known but says he continues “to say and do the same things I did in 2010.”
His biggest alarm then and now is that the federal government is incurring too much debt.
“Spending is out of control and there is bipartisan blame to go around,” he said.
Paul said he has “fought tirelessly to return government to its limited, constitutional scope.”
He said he still considers himself a physician and not a career politician, though he declines to say how long he plans to stay in politics.
“There is so much work to be done in Washington,” he said.
In addition to speaking out on government spending, Paul said he is fighting to lessen federal regulations on the coal industry.
He argues that “the easing of regulations would help in a big way” to restore the financially struggling coal industry in Kentucky.
His opponents accuse him of ignoring Kentucky while running for president.
“There’s not another member of Congress who has had more town hall meetings in their state than I have had,” said Paul.
On major issues, Paul said he is “100 percent pro-life,” a proponent of a balanced budget, gun rights and term limits, and an advocate of reforming the U.S. tax code and justice system.
Paul’s plan for term limits calls for a constitutional amendment to place a limit on the amount of time a member of the U.S. House or Senate may serve in office to a maximum of 12 years per chamber.
Asked if he plans to leave the Senate after 12 years, Paul said he will operate under the same law that applies to all Senate members.
Gould and Slaughter did not respond to requests for comment.
Gould’s campaign website said he is pushing for a stronger military, the repeal of U.S economic sanctions on Russia and a balanced budget.
Slaughter, who has nearly 40 years of experience in oil and gas, calls on his website for limited government, a balanced budget and campaign finance reform.
He said Social Security “has been used and abused by Congress.”
“I will fight for our earned money to no longer be diverted to fund other programs and enhance the stability of the Social Security System,” he said on his website. “My plan is to put Social Security under the auspices of the Federal Reserve. ”