Lexington Mayor Jim Gray’s entry into race may increase pressure on Paul to drop presidential bid
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
FRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — As he battles to keep his presidential hopes alive, U.S. Senator Rand Paul has drawn a high-profile, independently wealthy Democratic challenger in his Senate re-election challenge back home in Kentucky.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, chairman of his family’s international construction company, announced January 26 that he would challenge Paul, a first-term Republican who is simultaneously seeking the GOP presidential nomination and re-election to the Senate.
“Washington offers dysfunction and gridlock, and Senator Paul confuses talking with getting results,” Gray said in a video announcing his campaign. “He offers ideas that will weaken our country at home and abroad, and he puts himself and his own ambitions above Kentucky.
In 2014, Gray, 62, was elected to his second term as mayor of Lexington, the commonwealth’s second-largest city. He is one of seven Democrats who filed to run against Paul and–given his political profile and ability to self-fund his campaign–is the prohibitive favorite to be Paul’s opponent in November.
However, Gray is also openly gay, a probable complication in a state where Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis became a cause celebre after she want to jail last year for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Democrats have not won a Senate race in Kentucky since 1992. But Paul’s decision to run for two offices at once has put the Bluegrass State on the Democrats’ radar.
While the Kentucky GOP changed its presidential nominating contest to a caucus to facilitate Paul’s political double-dipping, he has been under increasing pressure from within his party to abandon his White House quest and focus on the Senate race–pressure that is likely to intensify now that he has a potentially formidable Democratic challenger.
The latest national polls in the Republican presidential contest show Paul mired in single digits.
Paul, 53, an eye surgeon from Bowling Green, won election to the Senate in 2010 with Tea Party support, besting a candidate backed by Kentucky’s Republican establishment. He is the son of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who made three unsuccessful tries for the White House.