Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can an Openly Gay Democrat Unseat Sen. Rand Paul?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can an Openly Gay Democrat Unseat Sen. Rand Paul?

Article excerpt

Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington, Ky., made a last-minute announcement of his candidacy for the US Senate on Tuesday, offering increasingly red-state Kentuckians a stark choice: a gay businessman whose American Dream rests on wages and job creation, or incumbent Rand Paul, who has become increasingly focused on his bid for the Republican nomination for president.

Mayor Gray's decision also creates tough choices for Senator Paul, who has struggled to keep pace in the Republican presidential campaign. Recent polls show him with 6 percent of likely Iowan caucus voters' support, giving him fifth place out of twelve remaining candidates. Should he keep splitting time and money between two races simultaneously, or drop out of the nomination race to focus on his home turf?

"The American Dream is slipping away," Gray said in a video announcing his candidacy for the Senate. "People don't have the same opportunity we had growing up and instead of building things up like my family taught me, Washington is busy tearing each other down. I want to change that."

Lexington first elected Gray in 2000, making him the state's first openly gay mayor. The former chief executive officer of Gray Construction, which he built up after his father's death when he was in college, spent $800,000 of his own money to win the mayoral office in 2010, and his ability to fund his own Senate campaign could help overcome the challenge of mounting a last-minute campaign.

Kentucky Republicans describe Gray's eleventh-hour decision as a sign of weakness. Democrats had "finally convinced Jim Gray to take one for the team," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Greg Blair. The deadline to file a campaign was 4 o'clock Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, state party leaders had hoped former auditor Adam Edelen could take on Rand's Senate seat. But Mr. Edelen was unexpectedly defeated in November, leaving the party without a main contender. Three other Democrats have filed, but Gray is viewed as the strongest candidate, with a record of creating jobs, attracting business, and raising the city's minimum wage to $10.10.

Asked in an interview if he thought being gay could hurt his campaign, Gray told the Louisville Courier-Journal that Lexingtonians "care about character and they care about competence. …

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