FRANKFORT, Ky. — Representative Ron Paul proved to be a surprising presence in the presidential race in 2008. Now his son, Dr. Rand Paul, has become an unexpected contender in the 2010 Senate race in Kentucky. ....
Dr. Paul — an ophthalmologist and a son of the congressman, a Texas Republican and former presidential candidate — has become a serious challenger in the race to succeed Senator Jim Bunning.
Capitalizing on a hearty distrust of government and an anti-Republican-establishment fervor among conservatives, he has used the Internet to raise more than $1.3 million since he began his campaign in August.
“This primary is really about the future of our party,” said Dr. Paul, 46, who has lived in Kentucky since 1993 and has never run for public office before. ....
Dr. Paul has seen a surge in popularity and fund-raising in the last several months, setting the stage for what pundits here say could be one of the most expensive and competitive primary contests in state history.
Much like his father, who used the Internet to raise more than $35 million for his long-shot presidential bid, Dr. Paul has tapped the enthusiasm of fiscal conservatives, libertarians and young Republicans on college campuses. In the process, he has dashed his party’s hopes that its preferred candidate, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, might cruise through the May primary unscathed.
A fervent opponent of big government, Dr. Paul believes that federal authorities should stay out of drug enforcement, and that same-sex marriage, which he opposes, should be a decision left to the states. He supports gun rights and thinks abortions should be illegal. Unlike his father, Dr. Paul opposes all legislative earmarks, even those that might benefit his constituents.
“I consider myself a constitutional conservative and a part of the insurgency that’s going on out there,” he said. .......
“The celebrity factor is what is attracting people now,” said Mr. Grayson, who was a lawyer before being elected secretary of state in 2003. “Mr. Paul has his dad’s following and his dad’s e-mail list, and he has shown he can raise money outside the state.”
But before long, Mr. Grayson said, he hopes voters will see that Dr. Paul’s views are out of step with his values.
“I hope Grayson will win because Paul’s views are too consertive ,” said Mike Bryant, the Breathitt County Republican Party chairman, who maintains a blog called TooKookyforKentucky, which highlights some of the more controversial positions espoused by Dr. Paul and his father.
Senator Bunning, 78, has accused Republican leaders of forcing him into retirement. As payback, he could endorse Dr. Rand Paul.
Catherine Todd Bailey, President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Latvia and a prodigious fund-raiser, has quietly expressed interest in joining the race. If she does, she would most likely take more votes from Mr. Grayson than from Dr. Paul.
Dr. Paul said he intended to keep his campaign focused on the federal bailout, taxes and jobs, which, he said, are topics that concern Kentucky voters far more than social issues.
“Like me, a lot of people are concerned about the fiscal situation,” said Dr. Paul, who is married to Kelley Paul and has three sons, ages 10, 12 and 16. Since August, Dr. Paul has been splitting his time between his campaign and his ophthalmology practice. ......
“We have the message and the money,” he said, “and the combination of those factors is proving really strong for us.”
While Kentucky is solidly Democratic by voter registration, residents tend to back Republicans in federal races. The party holds both Senate seats and four of six House seats.
Scott Lasley, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University, said that whoever won the Republican primary would have the advantage in the general election, but would still face a strong challenge from the Democrats.
For the Democratic nomination, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo is running against Attorney General Jack Conway.
“The Republicans need to be careful not to wear themselves out before the general,” Professor Lasley said.