U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and his Democratic challenger, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, answered questions from the Kentucky Farm Bureau about farm policy on Thursday, but not at the same time.
It’s only the third time both candidates for an office have not appeared at the same time at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s “Meet the Candidates” forum, according to Bureau President Mark Haney.
In a press conference after Paul’s portion, the Senator fielded questions about why he didn’t appear with Gray.
“Where is he?” Paul said, before saying he just shows up where he’s told.
Haney implied that Paul’s staff requested to meet at different times.
“We want to accommodate both campaigns,” Haney said, adding that he was not directly involved in the talks.
The last time both candidates didn’t appear together before the Farm Bureau was 2002, when U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell was running against Lois Combs Weinberg. Before that was the early ’80s, Haney said.
“The way we saw that,” Haney said, “at the end of the day we’re going to get the material that we want.”
In his initial remarks, Gray jumped on Paul’s request not to appear with the mayor.
“It’s unfortunate that both candidates weren’t able to be here together,” Gray said.
In his opening speech, Paul complimented the Farm Bureau for taking a stance on family values. The Kentucky Farm Bureau’s policy book says marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman.
Thursday morning, around 40 people, including U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, and 6th Congressional District Democratic nominee Nancy Jo Kemper, protested the Farm Bureau’s Ham Breakfast, partially because of the bureau’s stance on LGBT issues.
“I like that the Kentucky Farm Bureau is not ashamed to talk about family values,” Paul said. “Not ashamed to talk about the sanctity of life, not afraid to talk about the traditions that really bind and hold us together as a civilization.”
Gray did not address the topic during his chance to talk. When a reporter asked whether Paul’s comments about family values were directed at him, Gray, who is openly gay, declined to comment.
When asked about federal regulations, Gray expressed his frustration with overzealous regulators in the construction industry.
But Gray refused to say whether he would work to end federal regulatory initiatives such as the Clean Water Act.
“There’s no one size fits all on those kinds of questions,” Gray said. “You don’t say carte blanche that we’re going to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Paul said regulation from the federal government has overstepped its bounds.
“You don’t want the government telling you that you can’t make reservoirs and ponds to irrigate your land,” Paul said.
On international trade, Gray said trade deals had been good to Kentucky, but stopped short of saying whether he supported the trade agreements being debated in Congress.
“Kentucky has benefited from trade, there’s no question about that,” Gray said. “Net positive.”
Paul said he supported trade agreements, such as Trans-Pacific Partnership, because they would bring money to Kentucky farmers.
On labeling genetically modified foods, Paul was dismissive.
“When you eat a cow, you don’t become a cow’s DNA,” Paul said “We are always eating foreign DNA, and we do not ingest that. There is not a danger from GMO, and we should not let anyone imply that there’s a danger.”
When Gray was asked the same question, he did not take a position on whether foods should contain labels if they are genetically modified.
“Whatever’s done in terms of labeling ought to be done fairly and across the board so that one state doesn’t benefit more than any other state,” Gray said.