It was a short walk, across a capitol hallway, for Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson to file the paperwork to offically enter the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Thursday.
And, it's been a relatively quick trip to prominence for the 37 year old Northern Kentucky native, who has to search to find a grey hair ("It's getting there," he said poking his temple). Just one and a half terms into his first elected office,
Grayson hopes to succeed family friend and mentor Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), whose retirement hastened Grayson's vault to Senate hopeful.
"From a voting standpoint, we're pretty similar," Grayson said as he sat behind his capitol desk, "I think he's been somebody for years his hallmark was very focused on spending issues and to me that's the number one issue right now going forward to Washington."
Bunning announced his retirement as his own campaign fundraising evaporated, which Bunning blamed on senior senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader, dictating that the Hall of Fame baseball player be sent to the showers.
"On style we're very different," Grayson said, "You're talking Jim Bunning Hall of Fame baseball pitcher, kind of an intimidating style. I'm probably more of a consensus builder. Thats one of my hallmarks here in Frankfort is getting things done, working to get legislation through."
Yet, Grayson suggests his bipartisan tone does not mute his conservative voice. Grayson and GOP primary rival Rand Paul have traded jabs on the question of who is the true conservative and Republican.
"It's not a moderation thing," Grayson continued, "It's just kind of an approach. and we worked really hard with the legislature to repeal taxpayer funded political campaigns which was a pretty conservative issue, and also passed a bill to get ACORN out of the state to try to clamp down on some of their illegal practices."
As Grayson exhibits his conservative bonafides, the question is, would he stay true to the conservative positions when trying to appeal to voters in a general election?
"My views, I think, are right in the center. Kentucky is a conservative state," Grayson said. "I'm not going to change my views in the spring or the fall. We're going to continue to focus on fiscal issues. I'm pro-life now and im going to stay Pro-Life. On the national security issues, we're going to continue to talk about these."
Grayson is continuing to talk about an apparent reversal of Rand Paul's position on whether the Guantanamo Bay federal detention center should remain in operation. Paul's campaign says Grayson is taking Paul's previous statements out of context.
"Go watch the YouTube videos," Grayson pleaded, "And when he says 'I don't think it will take him, send him back home it won't take, it will take him a long time to get back here to America. I don't know how you take that line out of context."
Grayson, a one time college Democrat who supported Bill Clinton, unveiled a series of priorities Thursday in an interactive video chat on his campaign website, beamed to supporters' "house parties" in 95 of Kentucky's 120 counties.
Grayson is proposing a freeze on federal spending (except for defense and veterans non-discretionary spending) "for a couple of years and then letting it only grow with inflation," he explained. "Now, that doesn't address some of the long term problems we have with entitlements, but until we get discretinary spending under control, I don't think we can get the consensus we need on entitlements.
"To me, that's something I'm willing to stick my neck out on," Grayson continued, adding that he would like the federal government to adopt a two year budget cycle. "The stimulus money that hasn't been distributed, I think we ought to stop it right now. And I think there is so much waste, that it was designed to make a political statement and not really an economic statement."
Grayson is also calling for earmark reform, including more transparency and more local control of some spending to help pay for projects like new Ohio River bridges planned in Louisville and Northern Kentucky.
"Its not enough just to cut spending, we have to be more efficient with the way we do spend it."
"I'd be reluctant to confirm Ben Bernake" as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Grayson said, saying he would also like to succeed Bunning on the Senate Banking Committee.
"It's something where (Bunning is) in a better positon in oversight hearings. And I don't feel like I know enough information to give you a definitive answer, but I would say that like him I have some quesitons about the Fed's role coming up to the Fall of '08."
While Grayson says Bunning's admonition to stay true to conservative ideals repeats in his mind, he is in more regular contact with Senator McConnell, who Grayson says offers advice on the Senate run. "We don't always agree on them. Its my campaign. We have our own staff and we decide what we're going to do, and we consider his advice."
Though McConnell has not overtly endorsed Grayson, he has helped raise money for the campaign. The strength of Rand Paul's Internet money machine has created a new dynamic for Kentucky politics, but Grayson says his campaign is on target according to initial forecasts. Grayson declined to reveal fundraising results from the fourth quarter of 2009.
"Once again 90 percent of our money comes from Kentucky, and its from across Kentucky y at all different levels," Grayson said. "So we feel really good about that and we feel really good that this quarter is off to a great start and around January 31 we'll have it all figured out and announce the results. We're going to have the money we need to win this race. I have no concerns about that at all."
Grayson's office includes the expected array of personal and political mememtos. Next to traditonal "bobbleheads of several Cincinnati Reds baseball players are bobbleheads of Kentuckians Abraham Lincoln and Richie Farmer.
"They're two great Kentuckians," Grayson laughed. "Richie is hanging from the rafters at Rupp Arena, commissioner of Agriculture. Abraham Lincoln saved the country. So those are two great Kentuckians."
And beside antother bust of Lincoln on a table in Grayson's office is a Star Wars Pez candy box set. Grayson says Star Wars is the first movie he saw without his parents, and he saw it seven times. It's themes have been the focus of a speech Grayson has delivered to young people.
"Relying upon your friends and working hard and listening to your elders... these are all good lessons."
Asked what charatcer he would be in a Star Wars movie, Grayson said hero Luke Skywalker. And Mitch McConnell? Grayson suggested the all-seeing sage Obie Wan Kenobi, and Yoda is Ronald Reagan.