Lexington Mayor Jim Gray accused U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of having “wild ass philosophies and theories” and Paul called Gray a hypocrite Monday night in the only debate of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race.
The two candidates traded barbs about the economy, the national debt, infrastructure, national security and the candidate’s political record during their hour-long appearance on KET’s “Kentucky Tonight.”
In the most heated moment of the debate, Gray turned to Paul and asked him if he planned to run for President in 2020.
Paul responded by calling Gray a hypocrite, noting that Gray wouldn’t fulfill his full term as mayor if he won the Senate race.
“You’re the one running for two offices,” Paul said. “In fact, if anyone up here is distracted running for two offices, it’s you.”
Paul went on to criticize Gray for the long-delayed CentrePointe development project in downtown Lexington, a private construction project that Gray has criticized.
Gray responded by defending his record as mayor.
“You talk about budgets, I met a budget,” Gray said. “I had a deficit and I made six years of surpluses out of it. I had a pension reform, a $300 million underfunded pension and I fixed it. I had health insurance, costing $40 million and we were losing $20 million, and I fixed it.”
It wasn’t until the conversation turned to Paul’s voting record and debt that the curses started flying.
Gray questioned Paul’s record on the Comprehensive Recovery from Addiction Act, a bill that Paul voted for, but didn’t vote to fund.
Paul said he didn’t vote for the bill because the spending was tied up in an omnibus spending package that funded other things.
“I can’t support more of the same because I ran for office honestly telling people that debt is a problem,” Paul said. “I think the debt is a problem and we need to do something about it and I think it’s important for people to stand up to demagoguery.”
Gray argued that Paul’s stance was putting philosophy over helping people.
“He goes on with these philosophies and theories, I call them wild ass philosophies and theories, and he’s continuing on it…” Gray said.
Paul said he considers the nation’s growing debt a threat to national security.
“I think it threatens our economy,” Paul said. “I think it’s like an anvil slowing us down. We’re staggering along with about a one percent growth now.”
Both Gray and Paul agreed that the economy is not growing as fast as it should. Paul said burdensome regulations, such as environmental regulations imposed on the coal industry, are slowing the economy and called for their repeal.
Gray said the way to boost the economy is to invest federal money in infrastructure projects built through public-private partnerships.
Paul also supports increasing infrastructure spending, but said he would fund it by reducing foreign aid and spending the money domestically.
Gray challenged Paul on the issue of privacy, noting that some of Paul’s Republican colleagues have said Paul’s stance on personal privacy is dangerous. Paul is strongly against the FBI’s collection of metadata.
“I would encourage our intelligence community,” Gray said. “I would encourage our investment in defense.”
Gray did not answer where he drew the line on government invading the privacy of individuals.
Gray also brought up Paul’s refusal to support the Miner Pension Protection Act. While the bill has not faced a vote on the floor, Paul said he opposed the bill as it is written.
“I’m actually for the concept”of helping miner’s whose pensions are failing, Paul said, but he said the problem will persist until the federal government ends a “regulatory war on coal.”
“If you’re not going to end the regulatory war on coal, then how are you going to sure up the pensions?” he asked.
There are about 9,000 retired UMWA coal miners in Kentucky, more than the number of active miners in Kentucky.
“He’s always letting perfect get in the way of good,” Gray said.