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Conway eschews labels, defends positions and challenges Paul

by Joe Arnold


Posted on August 19, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 19 at 4:48 PM

Wearing a white "Kentucky Proud" apron and grinning from ear to ear, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate served fruit in the buffet line Thursday morning at the Kentucky State Fair's Commodities Breakfast.

And Conway was also dishing it out to Republican opponent Rand Paul.

"I'm running against someone quite honestly whose policies and positions would hurt Kentucky," Conway said.

Trailing in most polls, Kentucky's Attorney General is on the offense against Paul, but also defending his own position on whether to extend Bush administration tax cuts due to expire at the end of the year. 

An apparent shift in Conway's position has been highlighted recently by a You Tube video which includes a portion of Conway's April interview by the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board.

"I would favor letting expire probably the majority, the majority of the Bush tax cuts," Conway told the board.

After the Kentucky Farm Bureau candidate forum in July, however, Conway disclosed that he would prefer that the tax cuts not expire, instead he suggested to "extend them for some period of time, five, eight, ten years."
In an interview at Thursday's breakfast, Conway clarified his stance, explaining that while he still favors letting corporate tax breaks expire, he is also calling for the extension of other Bush tax cuts.

Asked how he reconciles his current position with the April interview, Conway responded, "the way I reconcile it, is my focus is on individual income tax rates.  It's on capital gains.  It's on estate taxes and those areas.  I don't think it's wise to raise taxes during the recession like we're in."

In a statement earlier this week, Kentucky Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson railed against the Obama administration's preference to let the tax cuts expire, linking Conway to the policy and the administration.

“Jack Conway can’t be trusted to maintain a single position on the issues affecting Kentuckians," Robertson said, "and he can’t be trusted to protect our wallets from President Obama’s reckless economic agenda in Washington."

Yet, Conway says he's been consistent on the issue because he favored the tax breaks when he ran for Congress in 2002.

"I think the tax breaks that deal with corporations, that deal with shipping jobs overseas, that are fundamentally unfair, those are the ones that I want to see expire," Conway continued, "but as for raising taxes on individuals on estates and capital gains during a recession, I'm not for that."

Conway is also distancing himself from President Obama's support of the construction of a $100 million mosque and Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"I think fundamentally," Conway said, "it's an issue for New York.  I understand Gov. Patterson is involved in trying to relocate it.  I just think that our mindset ought to foremost be with the families of the victims of 9/11 and for that reason I would prefer to see the mosque built elsewhere."

Several days ago, Paul also spoke out against the mosque.

"I think if we were looking at reconciliation," Paul stated, "and if the Islamic community in our country wants to say, 'you know what? we don't agree with these people who committed violence,' I think a better way would probably be for them to donate to the memorial site."

Conway's conservative streak is rankling both the key supporters of former primary rival Daniel Mongiardo, who positioned himself to the right of Conway during the primary, and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

What does Conway say to dyed in the wool Democrats who say "didn't we vote for you over Daniel Mongiardo because we thought you were one of us?"

"'One of us' means putting Kentucky first," Conway responded, "I mean, I'm a Democrat.  I'm an independent minded Kentucky Democrat and I think people, reporters like yourself Joe sometimes have trouble sticking a label on me."

In a Rasmussen Reports poll released on Wednesday (August 18), 43% of Kentucky voters believe Conway is politically liberal, but 32% say he’s moderate. 

Conversely, 75% of those polled regard Paul as a political conservative.

Conway says he has distinguished himself from Republicans on key issues, including support of the federal overhaul of health care, increased regulation of the financial world, the extension of unemployment benefits and the protection of Social Security.

In the next breath, Conway reiterated his more conservative positions on tax cuts and support for the Second Amendment.

Proposing several national debates on NBC, CNN and Fox News, Conway says he is eager to showcase the differences between himself and Rand Paul, who he describes as out of touch with Kentucky's priorities and unfamiliar with Kentucky's history.

"He doesn't 'get' Kentucky," Conway said, citing Paul's criticism of federal agriculture subsidies valued by Kentucky farmers.

Conway issued the debate challenge nearly one month after the Paul campaign challenged Conway to a series of Kentucky debates and one on Fox News.  Conway said the Paul campaign has not "negotiated in good faith" regarding the debates, citing Paul's public debate challenge the night before the campaigns were scheduled to meet to hammer out details.

"I'm happy to go on Fox News with Chris Wallace," Conway said, "I just think he ought to go on Meet the Press for example and CNN."

Though Paul is one of the few people to ever cancel a scheduled appearance on Meet the Press, in the wake of a storm of controversy regarding Paul's comments on the Civil Rights Act, Conway disclosed that Meet the Press has asked the campaigns to "lead off the fall series."

"(Paul) still has some aversion to that show," Conway said, adding that he is proposing "five or six" debates in Kentucky.

"I would love to see them televised, would love to see WHAS televise one of those," Conway said, "I think we ought to do them in all areas of the state."

Conway is taking on one other national Democratic priority, a reform of the use of filibusters in the U.S. Senate.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a master of Senate rules, has used the filibuster and other procedural maneuvers to delay or defeat Democratic  measures.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with taking a look at the filibuster issue and saying 'you know what? sometimes the senate ought to sometimes be more responsive to the people,'" Conway continued, "I know it's supposed to be the more deliberative body. I know it's supposed to be the last passionate body, but sometimes it needs to move a little more quickly."

Conway was asked whether massive legislation such as the health care overhaul should have been approved on a narrow party line vote.

"I don't have a problem with the way it was done," he said.