(WHAS11) - In a stunning development in Kentucky’s Republican primary to replace U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R), Bunning is endorsing upstart candidate Rand Paul rather than Secretary of State Trey Grayson. In a statement released at 5pm Wednesday afternoon, Bunning said, “In the United States Senate, Kentuckians need a strong, principled conservative to stand up to the liberals and establishment politicians that run Washington. Kentucky needs a conservative who will say no to bailouts, stop the government takeover of our economy, end wasteful spending, and bring down our national debt. And Kentucky’s families need a conservative who believes in traditional values and the rights of the unborn. In 2010, there is only one such conservative running for the United States Senate -- Dr. Rand Paul.”
WHAS11 News has learned that Bunning approached Paul at a recent Lincoln Day Dinner, the two later met privately.
Both Paul and Bunning are anti-Federal Reserve, fiscal conservatives.
Rand Paul has presented himself as the anti-establishment Tea Party candidate. It is to be determined how an endorsement by a two-term senator who has spent 24 years in Washington will be received by those supporters.
Bunning is a family friend of the Trey Grayson family, and has been considered Grayson's political mentor. Grayson held off formally announcing for the Senate seat until Bunning announced his retirement.
Mitch McConnell, Kentucky's senior senator, effectively ended Bunning's career and has been a quiet supporter of Grayson's campaign. Bunning has made no secret of his disdain for McConnell.
“Dr. Paul will be his own man in Washington, not beholden to the special interests and beltway insiders who come looking for handouts on a daily basis. Instead, Dr. Paul will be a strong voice and advocate for the people and values of Kentucky. Dr. Paul is a man of his word who can be trusted to do what is right for Kentucky and the nation.
The statement continues, “I know what it takes to stand up for the conservative principles that are needed to make America a better place for our children and grandchildren. Dr. Paul shares those same core values and has the courage and conviction necessary to make sure the voices of Kentucky’s workers, families, retirees, and children are heard in Washington. That is why I am supporting Dr. Paul to be our next United States Senator from Kentucky.”
Statement from Grayson campaign manager Nate Hodson:
We’ve always respected Senator Bunning’s fiscally conservative views, but even as a major league pitcher, he’d occasionally misfire. He is flat-out wrong about Rand Paul. Kentuckians need a fresh face, an outsider who can stand up for Kentucky values in Washington. Instead, as Rand Paul seeks to join the family business he has shown that he is well-versed in the ways of Washington and is willing to say anything for the sake of political expedience. His strange views on 9/11, Guantanamo, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, abortion and other issues simply do not match the views of Kentuckians.