(CNN) - The major powerbrokers of Kentucky politics gathered Saturday for the annual Fancy Farm Picnic, a rough and tumble political event in which candidates serve up their best stemwinder and hope it's not drowned out by the raucous audience.
At this year's event, Senate hopefuls Rand Paul and Jack Conway were joined onstage by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and much to the delight of the crowd, the three heavyweights each took their turn slinging one-liners.
If a candidate overruns their allotted speaking time at Fancy Farm, they are shooed offstage by a band, just like the Academy Awards. And the gathering is probably the only political event in the country that features an opening prayer that includes the line: "Lord, may our words be gracious and tender today, for tomorrow we might have to eat them."
Washington (CNN) – The Democrat hoping to be Kentucky's next senator apparently smells political opportunity in recent comments from his opponent, Rand Paul.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway spoke about his Republican opponent's views on the Civil Rights Act and the American with Disabilities Act in a Friday interview on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
In an interview earlier this week on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, and other recent interviews with the Louisville Courier Journal and other outlets, Paul suggested that the landmark federal anti-discrimination legislation should not apply to private businesses. Critics have seized on his comments and suggest that Paul would consent to private businesses, such as restaurants, refusing to serve African-Americans and other groups.
In a Thursday interview with Blitzer, Paul said the nation's segregationist past is a "stain on our history," and said he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act had he been in the senate in 1964.
But his opponent said that does not douse the firestorm surrounding Paul.
(CNN) - Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway is putting the heat on GOP rival Rand Paul over Paul's recent comments regarding the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Paul - the Tea Party favorite who easily beat Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the state's May 18 Senate primary - repeatedly dodged questions in recent media interviews about whether he thinks parts of the landmark legislation amount to a constitutional overreach.
An interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal last month highlighted Paul's controversial views during which he said: "I don't like the idea of telling private business owners-I abhor racism-I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time I do believe in private ownership. But I think there should be absolutely no discrimination on anything that gets any public funding and that's most of what the Civil Rights Act was about to my mind."
Following his primary victory on Tuesday, Paul was again questioned over his views regarding the legislation on National Public Radio and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. In response to questions, Paul said he supports the 46-year old measure except for the provisions that outlaw private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race.
While stressing that he is opposed to discrimination in any form, Paul suggested the measure runs up against individuals' First Amendment and property rights.
"I think what's important in this debate is not getting into any specific 'gotcha' on this, but asking the question 'What about freedom of speech?' Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking? I don't want to be associated with those people, but I also don't want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that's one of the things that freedom requires," he said.
Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee issued the following statement about the Kentucky Senate race:
(read the full statement after the jump)
Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, issued the following statement about the Kentucky Senate race.
(read the full statement after the jump)
(CNN) – CNN projects that Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has won that state's Democratic Senate primary.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Conway led Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo 44.3 percent to 42.9 percent.
Bowling Green, Kentucky (CNN) - A win by Rand Paul in Kentucky's Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, a likely prospect according to most polling, would give the Tea Party movement its biggest triumph of the 2010 election season.
But it will also be a win for Democrats who would prefer to run against Paul - a libertarian-leaning ophthalmologist and son of former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas - instead of the other leading GOP contender and establishment favorite, Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
Democrats are confident that Paul's uncompromising small-government views - he would like to shutter the departments of Education and Agriculture, for example - will alienate moderate voters in a general election contest against the eventual Democratic nominee, either Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo or Attorney General Jack Conway. Their primary is considered too close to call as the race enters its final hours.
(CNN) - Jack Conway, a Democrat vying for the seat of retiring Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, took aim at the two-term Senator Wednesday in his first television ad.
"Jim Bunning used to be a great pitcher – now he's throwing high and wild, hitting working families where it hurts, stopping unemployment benefits in a recession," Conway says in the ad. "And Rand Paul and Trey Grayson, they are shamefully cheering him on."
Conway, Kentucky's attorney general, is in a race against Kentucky's Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo. Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Rand Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, are battling for the Republican nomination.
Sen. Jim Bunning, has been the recipient of criticism from both sides of the aisle over his three-day stalling of legislation to extend unemployment benefits. Bunning lifted his block Tuesday night, allowing the legislation to be approved by the Senate.
(CNN) – Sen. Jim Bunning's decision to block a bill extending unemployment benefits has become a political lightning rod among the four major candidates who are seeking to fill the outgoing Kentucky Republican's Senate seat.
Jack Conway and Daniel Mongiardo, the two Democrats vying for their party's nomination to replace Bunning, have condemned Bunning's actions as they seek to resonate with the 120,000 Kentuckians who currently receive unemployment benefits. Conway, the state's attorney general, has called Bunning's block "outrageous" and posted a petition to register disapproval with the move on his Web site.
Mongiardo - the current lieutenant governor - is going one step further, holding rallies Tuesday outside of Bunning's offices in Louisville and Lexington. Kim Geveden, Mongiardo's communications director, told CNN the campaign had invited Conway to attend the rallies, though Conway declined. Conway is currently in Washington, DC for official business, according to a spokeswoman.
It's a different story on the Republican side, where the two candidates battling for the party's Senate nomination are heralding Bunning's move as a prudent act of conservatism. Rand Paul, a doctor and son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul called attacks on Bunning "unfair" and is holding his own rally in support of Bunning in front of the senator's Lexington office at 3 p.m. ET. Trey Grayson, Kentucky's secretary of state, who's battling Paul, has also applauded Bunning's move.
Video of protesters in Louisville, Kentucky after the jump: