Politics

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray accused U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of having “wild-ass philosophies and theories” in their first and only face-to-face debate of the election year. The at times freewheeling event underscored the candidates’ differences on foreign policy and economic values.

Paul repeatedly tried to tie Gray to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, who are both unpopular in Kentucky.

“The mayor’s endorsed both of these candidates, so it makes it very difficult for him in Western Kentucky or Eastern Kentucky to convince people that he’s for them when he’s for these regulations that have been killing their jobs,” Paul said.

The hour-long debate, which was televised live on KET, took place about a week before Kentuckians go to the polls on Nov. 8.

Gray is in his second term as mayor of Lexington. Paul is at the end of his first term in the Senate. He also sought the Republican nomination for president but dropped out of the race earlier this year.

The public officials also attacked each other’s political acumen and ability to compromise.

Gray twice said that Paul had “wild-ass” ideas, accusing the Republican senator of being an obstructionist. He chided Paul for quoting Montesquieu, a French philosopher, and highlighted Paul’s vote against the funding of a federal addiction treatment bill during the budgeting process earlier this year.

“It’s obtuse, it’s arcane, it’s nonsense,” Gray said.

Paul defended his vote, saying lawmakers should vote on funding issues piecemeal and shouldn’t have to vote for multiple issues within the same funding bill.

“It’s going to take people with courage to stand up even against demagoguery, people that will demagogue the issue and say you’re opposed to something, you’re actually for them. Because we have to fix the spending problem,” Paul said.

Gray has repeatedly attacked Paul for his presidential bid, accusing him of not paying attention to his duties in the Senate.

On Monday, Paul shot back, panning Gray’s handling of the languishing Centre Pointe development in downtown Lexington, which was started by Gray’s predecessor.

“If anybody’s distracted by running for two offices, it’s you,” Paul said. “You’ve got an enormous hole in the middle of Lexington. It’s been there your entire tenure.”

The two candidates also differed on raising the minimum wage: Gray wants to raise it and Paul doesn’t, saying it would lead to unemployment.

A poll released early on Monday by Runswitch PR showed Paul with a 10-point lead in the race.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.