Rand Paul Defeats Jack Conway, Giving Tea Party First Win
Republican Rand Paul defeated Democrat Jack Conway Tuesday night for the Kentucky seat in the Senate, according to the Associated Press, CNN and Fox News. Paul’s election marks a major victory for the Tea Party in the traditionally red state.
"I have great confidence in the American system, we must believe in ourselves and not believe that some benevolent leader in a distant land will save us," Paul said in his victory speech.
Both candidates campaigned heavily in the days leading up to the election. Paul was favored in the polls over Conway. A recent poll released by Public Policy Polling, showed Paul leading Conway by approximately 15 percentage points.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning with heavy traffic around the Lexington poll and surrounding counties.
As the Wall Street Journal reported:
“Holding his wife Kelley's hand and walking with his son Robert, 11 years old, Mr. Paul arrived at an elementary school here in his hometown [Bowling Green, Ky.] at about 9:30 a.m. central time to cast his vote.
"There is a tea-party tidal wave coming to Washington," he said to reporters after emerging from the polling station. He described the movement as "a bunch of people who are more concerned about the [national] debt than anything else."
The spokesman for the secretary of state's office warned of long lines at poll locations that use electronic ballots. Kentucky Voters in more than 45 of the state's 120 counties used the digital voting system for the first time Tuesday.
Early morning voters went in and out of polls with ease, but several poll locations were experiencing technical difficulties. In Fayette County several polls had to be replaced after malfunctions and in Meadowthorpe both machines had to be replaced delaying voting for about 45 minutes.
The Kentucky election fraud hotline received 54 calls of complaints from 29 counties by 9:30 a.m., a lot fewer than the 272 complaints from the 2008 general election day. Most were concerning malfunctioning machines, but one was an allegation of vote-buying.
The Kentucky campaign was a hard fought and--at times--nasty race, with each candidate involved in several controversies over the past few months.
Paul was criticized in late May for expressing his concern with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that made segregation and discrimination in public places illegal. He described his concern on the Rachel Maddow Show where he said he disagreed with the part allowing the government to tell business owners what they can or cannot do.
Conway was hopeful for a lead in the polls in early October with the release of an ad that focused on Paul's years at Baylor University, in which he tied up a female friend and told her to worship a god they called "Aqua Buddha".
These controversies were followed by what Talking Points Memo calls the 'nastiest debate of 2010'. The debate was filled with slander and low blows and ended with Paul's refusal to shake Conway's hand.
The most recent controversy took place a week before election night when a Rand Paul supporter and a major donor to the Kentucky GOP campaign was videotaped stepping on a woman's head pinning her face to the concrete.
The Kentucky Senate campaign was also defined by accusations of flip-flopping on issue. In an ad released by Conway, Paul was accused of changing his position on the FairTax proposal, an accusation that almost caused him to pull out of the final debate.
On the other side, Conway was accused of switching positions on the coal industry and the issue of "cap and trade," a critical issue for the election. Conway stated that he is against cap and trade, but Paul said this contradicts his support for changes to the bill last year.
Paul, the son of former Presidential candidate Ron Paul, is a practicing ophthalmologist and has been politically involved since creating Kentucky Taxpayers United in 1994. He used this lack of a strong political background to his advantage in the election, stating that “his entrance into politics is indicative of his life’s work: a desire to diagnose problems, and provide practical solutions.”
Supported by the Tea Party, Paul opposes government bailouts, wants to stop inflation by stopping the printing of money to pay off the national debt, supports pro-life abortion policies and supports legal immigration over amnesty.
After attacks from Conway, Paul released a statement on his website declaring that he was opposed to raising the retirement age for Social Security, raising the deductible for patients receiving Medicare and cutting benefits for seniors.
Conway, a liberal, has been Kentucky’s Attorney General since 2008. Prior to running for the Senate, he ran for the House of Representatives in 2002, but lost.
Conway planned to tackle the national debt by renegotiating the budget. He was opposed to Wall Street bailouts, sought to reform Wall Street corporations and advocated for workers’ (especially miner's) rights.
Paul will replace retiring Republican Jim Bunning in the Senate, and will serve alongside Republican Mitch McConnell, the current Minority Leader whose term is up for re-election in 2014.
Contact reporter Jennifer Schultz here.
Follow Jennifer Schultz on Twitter: @Neon_Jenn
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