By Ronnie Ellis/CNHI News Service
Rand Paul had a message. It was loud and clear. And Kentucky responded in a loud and clear fashion.
The Bowling Green ophthalmologist and son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul jumped into the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate when no one gave him a chance. He easily defeated the establishment’s pick, Secretary of State Trey Grayson, and Tuesday night he completed his quest by dispatching Democrat Jack Conway in impressive fashion — 55.7 percent to 44.3 percent.
His victory speech began the way he began his campaign: “I have a message, a message from the people of Kentucky. A message that is loud and clear and doesn’t mince words. We’ve come to take our government back.”
Later after the wild celebration by blue, t-shirt wearing TEA Party supporters and more established country club Republican set, Paul said he was “the Cinderella story – everything was charmed from the beginning.”
With 95 percent of the precincts reporting at 10:40 p.m., Paul led Conway 724,383 to 575,711 But CNN didn’t wait nearly that long to declare Paul the winner — at 6 p.m. with only about 55,000 votes counted. At the time, Paul led Conway by about 5,000 votes, but CNN said exit polling indicated “Rand Paul will be a big winner.” Their polling was right. Two years ago, Kentucky’s senior senator and Republican Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, beat Democrat Bruce Lunsford by six points.
Conway called Paul and conceded shortly before Paul entered the packed and rocking ballroom of the Patsy Sloan Convention Center. But the party began early, festive music played by Paul’s teenage sons and interrupted by a parade of lesser Republican stars — Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson, First District Congressman Ed Whitfield, Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie and Warren County Judge/Executive Mike Buchanon.
Also on hand were gubernatorial hopefuls David Williams and Phil Moffett, and Williams’ running mate Riche Farmer The Republican establishment may not have been for Paul in the beginning, but they’ve been on board for a while and they celebrated alongside those who were there from the beginning. Kathy Linzy of Lawrenceburg has been there from the start. Asked what Paul’s huge win meant for her personally, she responded: “It means freedom!”
She recalled her first meeting with Paul at an early organizational meeting in Frankfort,
“He said I can’t promise I’ll go to Washington and bring you back money because there is no money,” Linzy quoted Paul as saying back then. “But he said he could promise that he’d go up there and fight for freedom and that’s what got me involved.”
Paul’s victory speech was national in theme and scope. He said the Senate is famed as a “deliberative body,” and said, “I will respectfully ask them to deliberate on this:” and then reeled off a number of items — the public’s unhappiness with Washington, the need for fiscal sanity, limited constitutional government and a balanced budget. Finally, he said he will ask the Senate to deliberate on this:
“Do we wish to live free or live enslaved by debt?” Paul asked as the crowd yelled approval. “Do we believe in the individual or do we believe in the state.”
Laurel County Republican Chairman Bryan Mills said it’s easy to analyze Paul’s easy win.
“Kentuckians really believe in Dr. Paul’s ideas of small government, fiscal responsibility and reigning in some of the insanity that’s been going on in Congress for the past two years,” Mills said. He said he never doubted Paul’s ability to win the election because of that message and the way it resonated with voters.
Paul encapsulated the campaign in one rhetorical question in his victory speech.
“The American people want to know why we have to balance our budget and they (Congress) don’t?” Paul said as the crowd roared approval.
Kathy Gornik, a TEA Party member and ardent and early Paul supporter from Lexington, said Tuesday was “a great day for Kentucky, but the real work begins tomorrow.”
She said the TEA Party will “be watching closely the incoming class and hold them to the constitution.”
Robertson, the party chairman, said volunteers knocked on more than 100,000 doors in the past couple of weeks. But the effort began in June, he said, to identify Democrats and independents that were unhappy with Washington policies and go after them for Paul.
“It was like shooting fish in a barrel,” he said. “They were ready.”
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.