BOWLING GREEN — Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul said Tuesday he's planning a campaign staff shake-up a week after a round of interviews in which he dismayed fellow Republicans by discussing his views on racial segregation.
Campaign manager David Adams, a Republican strategist and former blogger who has been with the campaign since it began, will remain, but perhaps in a different role, Paul said.
Paul, who said he was bolstering his staff, won the GOP nomination last week with campaign workers who were largely political novices and volunteers. He said all the staffing decisions haven't yet been made.
Adams declined to comment on the reorganization Tuesday night.
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A former aide to Paul's father Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and former Republican presidential candidate, has become increasingly visible in the Senate campaign. Jesse Benton, who was communications director for Ron Paul's last presidential bid, has been at the younger Paul's side at most of his recent campaign events.
A political firestorm has followed Paul since last week when he expressed misgivings about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, suggesting to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow the federal government shouldn't have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if business owners don't want to.
On Tuesday, wearing his doctor scrubs, the Bowling Green physician spoke about his turbulent week to a friendly audience at a civic club in his hometown.
He drew chuckles when he described last week's campaign victory with the words of English novelist Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
"I think they've used it as an issue to try to make me into something that I'm not," he said. "I was raised in a family that said that you judge people the same way Martin Luther King said, you judge people by their character not by the color of their skin."
His earlier comments questioning the Civil Rights Act sparked a protest outside the state Republican Party headquarters on Saturday. Some 30 demonstrators, one carrying a placard declaring "Rand The Klan's Man," stood quietly on a street corner across Capitol Avenue from a Republican rally where GOP loyalists had gathered to show unity heading into this fall's general election.
Paul, who ran as a political outsider, said he has made amends with the Republican establishment. He said he has had cordial discussions with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Paul accused his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, of starting the controversy. He did so, Paul said, by telling reporters that Paul wants to repeal the Civil Rights Act.
"It's never been my position, and it's not my position," Paul said. "That's the bad thing about politics, not only do you have to run to defend your position, you've got to defend the position they make up for you, and that makes it hard."
Conway, appearing on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann Tuesday night, said that Paul "rejects a fundamental provision of the Civil Rights Act," and he called Paul's interview with Maddow "20 of the most painful minutes I've ever seen on cable TV."
"We can't afford to have this guy in the United States Senate," Conway said later.
Meanwhile, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky condemned Paul Tuesday for what it said were his "hurtful comments."
"Rand Paul's statements regarding all forms of discrimination are not consistent with, nor do they reflect the views of, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky," said K. Joshua Koch, vice chair of the state party, in a news release.
Paul is not a libertarian, Koch said. "There are clear differences between the Libertarian Party, including the philosophy upon which it is based, and the philosophy and campaign rhetoric of Rand Paul," he said.
For example, Koch said, libertarians want to find a way to give non-traditional couples equal protection under the law while Paul supports the "one man, one woman" definition of marriage.
Paul, a first-time candidate who portrayed himself as a political outsider, had easily defeated GOP establishment favorite Trey Grayson in last week's primary race, which was closely watched nationally as a test of the Tea Party movement's strength. Paul said he was caught off guard by the controversy that ensued.
"We were patting ourselves on the back," said Paul. "We thought we were in the middle of enjoying our great honeymoon, and it didn't last very long."
Paul added, "I think those of you in my hometown hopefully know me better than what's been said about me, and I will go to great lengths to prove to people that I'm not whatever I'm being depicted in cartoon and thousands and thousands of stories across the country."