Mayor Jim Gray should challenge U.S. Sen. Rand Paul

Mayor Jim Gray gives his victory speech during Gray’s post-election party at Belle’s Cocktail House on Nov. 4, 2014. Photo by Adam Pennavaria | Staff

Opinions Staff

Sen. Rand Paul may face Lexington’s popular Democratic Mayor Jim Gray in the upcoming Senate election, if Gray chooses to run.

Gray would head into a rough race if he did vie for a seat in Washington D.C. Kentucky showed its conservative face in the recent gubernatorial election, and many Kentuckians are fed up with President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party in general.

Nevertheless, Gray has little to lose — he’s currently in his second term as mayor, and he can only serve for three terms — so it would be wise to give Paul a run for his money.

The Democrats have few other viable candidates, and Gray would certainly be successful in urban areas like Lexington and Louisville. Paul, on the other hand, has put much of his attention into his presidential campaign and has spent little time connecting with voters in his home state.

“Rand Paul is going to have to come home and sell himself more than he has been,” said Stephen Voss, an associate professor of political science. “He has not run the sort of congressional office that you run if you want to stay in Congress for a long time.”

Paul will have his own struggles, but this may not help Gray enough to win the election. Lexington’s mayor would likely market himself as “not Obama,” but it could be hard to separate himself from the President in the eyes of voters.

Former political reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal Al Cross said being gay would probably not be a huge factor in Mayor Gray’s chances, even in the rural parts of Kentucky.

“It would be negative, but most of the people who would vote against him because he’s gay wouldn’t vote for him anyway,” Cross said. “He’s been very quiet about that, he hasn’t thrown it in people’s faces.”

Most voters who object to gay marriage and other equality issues would not vote against someone simply because of their sexuality, Cross said. They object most strongly to someone’s sexuality when they feel it is being forced upon them.

Gray’s opponents may nonetheless use this as a strategy to turn voters away from him, though, through campaigns claiming Gray will advocate for gay rights.

Any democrat would face many of the same problems as Gray would face if he chooses to run, but he has his strengths.

Gray has credibility as a businessman, and this could help him with corporations and other large businesses who have strong interests in who represents Kentucky in Washington.

Cross put Gray’s chances at 25 percent. Gray would undoubtedly suffer in Eastern and Western Kentucky, and a victory would be universally considered an upset.

That being said, Washington needs someone like Gray. He has done good things for Lexington, and he would do good things for Kentucky as the state’s senator.