HARRODSBURG — For Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate David Patterson, the "war on coal" had to wait a minute.
Patterson, the 43-year-old police officer hoping to shock the world by beating Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, had to take a break from the interview, staring at his phone as a question about his position on coal hung in the air.
A write-in U.S. Senate candidate had taken the stage at the University of Kentucky's Constitution Day event and drawn national attention to his anti-Semitic campaign, and Patterson's people — some of the four helping run his campaign — were texting him.
"Everybody's panicking," Patterson said. "They're thinking that when they hear third party senate candidate, (voters are) going to think that the Jew-hater, Neo-Nazi is me. So we're actually formulating a press release right now so everybody knows it's not me."
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Such is life for a largely unknown, poorly funded, third-party candidate in one of the country's most-watched Senate races.
Reading Stardust and sporting a Springfield .45 on his hip, Patterson sat down at the Kentucky Fudge Company last week to discuss with the Herald-Leader his positions on the issues, why he's running and why he thinks he's going to win.
Patterson said he has voted Republican his entire adult life, following — blindly, he admits — his father's voting preferences and only taking a closer look at the world of politics when Ron Paul got his attention.
"I've actually been called Ron Paul 2.0," Patterson said of the former Texas congressman, perennial presidential candidate and father of Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. "I really am a big fan of Ron Paul."
When Mitt Romney took the Republican nomination for president in 2012, Patterson was disappointed, unwilling to support either presidential candidate and looking around for someone else to get behind.
"It was either don't vote or find someone else to vote for, and that's when I started looking for other candidates, which in turn led me to the Libertarian Party, which led me to the libertarian philosophy," Patterson said.
He sums up that philosophy thusly: "I don't care who you are or how you want to live your life. You do you, I'm gonna do me and we don't have to agree on everything."
While polls indicate Patterson pulls meager tallies from both Grimes and McConnell, the would-be contender is spending his free time, when not working the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, talking to anyone who will listen.
On fiscal issues, Patterson said he and the Tea Party see eye-to-eye. He repeatedly laments the country's deficit, proposing a phased-out elimination of the Department of Education and other unspecified departments, severe cuts to foreign aid — including to Israel — and steep cuts in defense spending.
When asked whether he supported sequestration, a 2010 budget agreement that triggered across-the-board cuts in spending, Patterson drew a blank.
"That was back before I was awake," he said.
On abortion, Patterson is personally opposed, but he said it is up to the states to define murder and it should not be a federal issue.
"If Kentucky lawmakers were to pass a law stating that abortion was murder, I would be good with that," he said. "But until that time, it's not something I'm going to be dealing with."
He is anti-death penalty, pro-coal (if admittedly fuzzy on the details) and pro-gay marriage.
"I am 100 percent for love," Patterson said. "And if two people love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, I have no problem with it. It's not going to have a negative effect on me whatsoever."
Patterson is for ending the war on drugs, and while he believes climate change is real, he does not believe humans are the cause, calling politicians who target coal and talk of climate change "fear-mongers."
"I don't believe that at all," Patterson said. "I believe that the Earth, if you look at it scientifically, the Earth goes through its own changes. It goes through heating periods, it goes through cooling periods and none of these things we can predict."
On foreign policy, Patterson believes in strengthening America's homeland defense and only assisting other countries on a case-by-case basis.
"I'm a peace guy," he said.
Patterson said he would not have voted for the recent Senate resolution authorizing President Barack Obama to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, especially in the wake of public beheadings of journalists. Instead, he called for a "step back" to further study the situation.
"And people are going to say 'well in the meantime, Americans are going to be dying.' Well, you know what, don't go over to that part of the world," Patterson said. "I'm sorry. We're not going to go right out here and get abducted and beheaded in Harrodsburg, Ky."
Patterson, who has raised less the $5,000 for his campaign, said McConnell and Grimes put the needs of their party ahead of the needs of the state. He rejects the idea that he could be a spoiler for either side.
"Any votes that are going to me, if I weren't in the election, would probably be otherwise split between the two or people would just stay home," he said. "The whole notion that I'm stealing votes, that's a fallacy to me."