Surprise Republican Senate candidate reaching out to Sen. McConnell


by Joe Arnold

Posted on November 10, 2009 at 8:04 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 10 at 10:47 PM

(WHAS11) - The surprise candidate in Kentucky's Republican U.S. Senate primary tells WHAS11 News he is reaching out to senior Senator, Mitch McConnell.

Rand Paul is a Bowling Green eye surgeon.  His campaign's poll numbers and fundraising success have stunned party leaders and it is early in the game.

So who is he and does he have a chance?  

Most Kentucky political observers expected the democrats to duke it out in the senate primary while Republican Trey Grayson sat back and prepared for the fall campaign.

But Rand Paul and the sudden uprising of fiscal conservatism in the tea party movement appears to have changed all that.  

“I'm not afraid not to be elected and that's what you need in a politician,” says Dr. Rand Paul. 

Rand Paul's fearlessness is triggering anxiety among the GOP establishment, who did not expect a senate primary fight for

Secretary of State Trey Grayson, especially from someone not necessarily a party loyalist.

“I don't see things in republican/democrat terms, for example I've made a pledge, I will not vote for any budget that is not balanced, Republican or Democrat,” says Rand Paul.

The party can't ignore Paul now.  He was leading in the last week's WHAS11/Survey USA poll.

Paul's campaign derides some politicians as "Rino's" or Republicans in name only who are not true to the party platform.

“Republicans do not believe of government ownership of business and yet we voted for it, we voted for a bank bailout where for the first time government is owning private business in our country. 

Republican primary voters, I think, are unhappy and are going to want something new,” says Paul.

And "something new" is the Paul brand of republicanism, led by the power base of his dad, Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

The Libertarian leaning views may be a tough sell to mainstream republicans, including opposition to federal drug laws and the education department.

WHAS11 asked Rand Paul if that is where he has to be somewhat careful.

 “I don't think so.  When people say that could be extreme, or people think you're on the fringe, it's like well is it an extreme idea to believe in a balanced budget?” says Paul.

So who is this candidate?

“I'm a physician. I do eye surgery in Bowling Green.  I've been active for many years in Kentucky with Kentucky taxpayers united,” says Paul.

The self described citizen activist is keeping regular office hours at his ophthalmologist office.

“My wife made me promise.  I had to keep working. We have a mortgage, two, three mortgages we have to pay, I've got to do this,” he says.

But she is fully behind this unlikely path to the U.S. senate.

“When he talked me into doing this he told me he thought he had a 10% chance of winning, that's how he roped me in, and looked at him and said no, I think  you're going to win,” says Dr. Kelly Paul, Rand Paul’s wife.

So what's next for Republicans?  

Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans had hosted a fundraiser for Trey Grayson in August.

But Rand Paul is now scheduled to meet face to face with McConnell in Kentucky this Friday.