ABC News Projects Republican Rand Paul to Win Kentucky Senate Race

VIDEO: Kentuckys Rand Paul scores first major win of the night for the Tea Party.
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ABC News projects Republican Rand Paul will win the Kentucky Senate race, based on the exit poll, in what is the first major victory of the night for the Tea Party movement.

Paul's victory over Democrat Jack Conway is seen as an early indication of Republicans return to prominence in Congress and a sign of the Tea Party movement's growing political influence.

"There is a Tea Party tidal wave coming to Washington," Paul told reporters after casting his ballot this morning.

In an acceptance speech Tuesday night, Paul continued to call for smaller government and emphasized the role of individuals and businesses in restoring the country's economy.

"We must not believe that some benevolent leader in a distant capital will take care of us," Paul said, "We must take care of ourselves."

"Government does not create jobs," he said,"individuals, entrepreneurs, men and women, create jobs, but not government... America will remain great if we remain proud [of the] American system enshrined in our founding documents… the system that protects capitalism that has made this country great."

An ophthalmologist and son of libertarian Congressman Rep. Ron Paul, R- Texas, Paul, 47, became an early face of the Tea Party movement when he secured the nomination in May. But he quickly learned what played to the base in the primary would not work in the general election.

Early in his campaign Paul questioned the federal income tax and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that banned segregation in public places, and called on courts to reconsider the 14th Amendment's provision for granting citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. -- including children of illegal immigrants.

Referring the BP oil spill that dominated headlines and ravaged the coastal states along the Gulf of Mexico this summer, Paul said, "Sometimes, accidents happen."

As the campaign progressed, however, he switched tacks, shying away from voicing controversial opinions and instead attacking President Obama and big government.

Paul built an early campaign lead over challenger Conway, a conservative Democrat, but lost some ground in the final days of the campaign following two bizarre and headline-making debates. The first debate in early October focused on the details of a college prank.

At the debate Democrat Jack Conway repeated the same assault he made in a television attack ad, forcing Paul to explain a joke "kidnapping" and worship of a make-believe god.

"Why did he freely join a group known for mocking, for making fun of people with faith?" Conway asked during the debate. "When is it ever a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol, your god, which you call Aqua Buddha?"

Rand Paul Projected to Win Kentucky Senate Seat

Conway hoped conservative religious voters in Kentucky would sit up and take notice. They did, but not in the way he intended. The attack blew up in his face with many conservatives and liberals criticizing the ads for going too far.

Two weeks later, Paul supporters wrestled to the ground and stomped on the head of a liberal activist, Lauren Valle, paid to protest outside the debate.

Video of Tim Profitt, the Bourbon County election coordinator for Paul, went viral, forcing the candidate to condemn the assault.

Conway, 41, is the state's attorney general and a rising star in Kentucky's Democratic Party. In 2002, he lost a close fought race for a House seat.

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