Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will be facing a challenge from a prominent Kentucky Democrat come the election in November.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, 62, said Tuesday that he believes he has a shot at defeating the Republican incumbent despite that state’s widespread disapproval of President Barack Obama.
“I feel like that there’s an environment in Washington that’s toxic, and people across the country, and including Kentucky, are looking for alternatives,” Gray told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The second-term mayor, who is gay, said he believes Paul is vulnerable because he is simultaneously running for president. Gray said he decided last week he would challenge the senator, and that he doesn’t believe voters will take issue with his sexual orientation.
Doug Stafford, senior adviser for Paul’s Senate campaign, responded Tuesday morning to opponents filing to run in the Kentucky race.
"As Senator Rand Paul prepares for re-election, he hopes voters will remember his tireless work to balance the budget, his fight against President Obama’s War on Coal, his fight against Obamacare, and that Senator Paul has returned to the taxpayer over $2 million from his office budget,” Stafford said in a statement.
Gay rights have been the subject of widespread debate in Kentucky. The state is home to Kim Davis, the county clerk that went to jail for refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple. She later won an award at a conservative conference for her stand. The administration of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) may owe $2 million to the attorneys who represented the couple before the Supreme Court.
Paul’s stance on marriage equality will likely become an issue in the race. The libertarian-leaning senator maintains that government should not interfere with the business of marriage.
“Since government has been involved in marriage, they have done what they always do — taxed it, regulated it, and now redefined it,” he wrote in Time last year. “It is hard to argue that government’s involvement in marriage has made it better, a fact also not surprising to those who believe government does little right.”
In 2012, Paul disparaged Obama for his support of gay marriage.
“Call me cynical, but I wasn’t sure his views on marriage could get any gayer,” Paul said at an event sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.
As a candidate for Senate in 2010, Paul said he was open to a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and woman. He also feared gay marriage would lead to “humans marrying non-humans.”
Gray is likely to face an uphill battle in a state that easily re-elected then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) in 2014. The mayor said he has “no illusions” about how difficult a challenge he faces.
“I know what it’s like to challenge conventional thinking and conventional patterns,” Gray told the Herald-Leader. “What I believe people want is performance and results. That’s what they are about. That’s what counts.”
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