FRANKFORT — Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday he was concerned about Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul's "radical philosophy" and considered his stance on civil rights "disturbing."
Meanwhile, Republican Senate President David Williams attributed Paul's criticism of a provision in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prevents private businesses from discriminating based on race to "a generational disconnect."
The Democratic governor and Republican Senate leader from Burkesville were asked Monday by reporters about Paul's controversial comments that have generated heavy publicity. Paul, an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, faces Democrat Jack Conway, the state's attorney general, in the Nov. 2 general election for U.S. Senate.
Beshear said voters — Democrats and Republicans alike — need to "really look closely at who Rand Paul is and what he stands for." He said Paul holds a libertarian perspective of government, which is a fairly "radical philosophy" in the United States.
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Beshear said he is concerned Paul does not believe government has a role in protecting the rights of the individual against discrimination in private businesses. "It is very disturbing that we have a person that is running for public office and has the nomination of a major political party in our state has that kind of philosophy," he said.
Williams said he is proud of the Republican Party's support of the Civil Rights Act.
"When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, Rand Paul was 2 years old," he said. "Those of us who lived during that time period, I wasn't very old, but I was old enough to know that some things in the United States had to be changed. At that particular juncture all states weren't on the road to change.
"To ask someone to speculate what they would have done if this bill were proposed now versus what was done then, I've voted for a lot of things in the past I wouldn't vote for now and vice versa," Williams said.
Williams said he talked to Paul early in his campaign and knows Paul "is not a racist. He's someone who is supportive of equal rights of individuals."
Although Paul is not always the most "polished politician," Williams said, his lack of political skills is an asset with voters who are tired of the political establishment. "He's a fresh face, and ... he has fresh ideas, and he wants to change this government from a government that spends too much to one that lives within its means," he said.
Paul has "Libertarian tendencies" on some issues "but nobody believes there ever will be a vote to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964," he said.
Williams also said he doesn't agree with Paul on every issue, especially term limits on public officeholders. Term limits are not a good idea for small states, he said. "But I'd say probably 85 percent of the population disagree with me about that."
Beshear said he also was concerned about Paul's apparent "unbridled support" for BP in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Paul said last week President Barack Obama sounded "un-American" for criticizing BP and that "sometimes accidents happen" when discussing the spill and recent coal mine fatalities.
"To just flippantly brush off deaths in mines or brush off an economic disaster or an environmental disaster does not reflect favorably on that person, as far as I am concerned," Beshear said.