Several Kentucky Sheriffs, all registered Democrats who support Jack Conway, spoke out against Conway's Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate election on Wednesday. The sheriffs reiterated both Conway's theme of the past few weeks, that Rand Paul incorrectly downplays the severity of drug abuse in Kentucky, and the theme of a new Conway ad, that Paul is soft on crime because of a comment he made on KET in 2008.
Floyd County Sheriff John Blackburn was first on the conference call with a handful of reporters, saying "prescription pills is a very very bad problem in eastern Kentucky."
Blackburn said he has enjoyed working with Conway as Attorney General and he "can't understand how his opponent would say we don't have a drug problem."
Paul has repeatedly stipulated that drug abuse is a serious problem, while maintaining that it is not the biggest issue in the U.S. Senate campaign. Quoted as saying that drug abuse is "not a real pressing issue in the campaign," Paul has said he was misquoted and taken out of context.
But that didn't stop the sheriffs from lashing out at the Republican and his distaste for federal involvement in local law enforcement.
Graves County Chief Deputy Dewayne Redmon, who appears in the Conway ads, said methamphetamine use is an increasing problem in western Kentucky, and that without federal funding, "we would have to cut one of our officers, which would hurt us tremendously."
Calling drug abuse an "epidemic" in eastern Kentucky, Pike County Sheriff Charles "Fuzzy" Keesee also lambasted Paul saying, "I can't undersatnd how Mr. Paul would say this is not any problem."
Keesee also hammered Paul on the comment featured in Conway's newest ad in which Paul said that "things that are non-violent shouldn't be against the law."
Though Paul says the comment was made in the context of laws governing the use of motorcycle helmets, gambling and the lottery, and that he does not want to decriminalize anything currently outlawed, the sheriffs applied the Conway campaign's interpretation of the remark.
"We have a lot of burglaries and thefts that are considered non-violent crimes," Redmond, the Sheriff-elect explained, adding that if such activity was not considered criminal "you're just going to have repeat offenders."
"What about DUI's?" Keesee added, "That would be non-violent."
"I don't know where Mr. Paul where he gets the idea that non-violent crime should be against the law," Keesee continued.
The sheriffs resisted a reporter's question if they would reconsider their postions if Rand Paul clarified his remark.
"He'd have to be very convincing," Keesee said "I believe he really feels that way. He hasn't traveled across the state and he doesn't really know Kentucky."
On Tuesday, the Paul campaign announced the endorsements of ten Kentucky sheriffs and sheriffs-elect, most from eastern Kentucky, the region where Conway sought to make gains on the drug abuse issue.