Paul handily takes Senate seat

Rand Paul Sloan Convention Center Bowling Green on Tues. Nov. 2, 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

Bowling Green, Ky–Riding a wave of support from the conservative Tea Party movement, Republican Rand Paul won Kentucky’s US senate race by beating Jack Conway Tuesday by over 100,000 votes.

Paul, a Bowling Green native and son of 2008 presidential contender Republican Ron Paul, used his father’s name recognition and fund-raising, criticism of President Barack Obama and a message of small government to out-duel Conway, a Louisville native and the commonwealth’s current attorney general.

“We’ve come to take our government back,” Paul said. “Eleven percent of Americans approve of what the government has done. Tonight the Tea Party tidal wave is sending a message.”

The Tea Party is a populist, conservative movement that started in 2009 with a series of organized protests against large government.

Paul helped fuel the movement in May when he beat Republican favorite Trey Grayson in the primary. He said Tuesday that America’s government does not make the country great, but the people do.

“America is exceptional, but not inherently so,” he said. “It’s exceptional because Americans embraced freedom, enshrined freedom into its documents and lived for the principle. America will remain great if we remain proud.”

The race, which was for a seat former Sen. Jim Bunning left vacant when he decided not to run for reelection, was marked by hard-hitting ads that attacked the platforms and personal lives of both candidates.

“I think a little distance and time will make us forget that,” Paul said after receiving a call from Conway.

During their campaigns, both candidates garnered support from nationally known politicians.

Former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Conway at UK Oct. 11 and at the University of Louisville Monday. Paul received support from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Paul faced a statistical uphill battle, with registered Kentucky democrats outnumbering registered republicans1,618,011-1,044,872, according to the state election board’s primary election statistics.

Pre-election Gallup polls only showed an advantage for Paul, however. Paul led Conway by nine percentage points in a Courier-Journal poll published Oct. 28, four days before the election.