by Roger Alford
Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Protesters carried signs outside Kentucky’s Republican Party headquarters decrying U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul’s comments on civil rights May 22 while GOP leaders met inside to pledge their support for the candidate.
The meeting was organized to rally the state GOP behind Paul after a bitter primary campaign in which much of the Republican establishment backed his opponent. Rand won by a lopsided margin earlier last week.
|YOUNG PROTESTER—Seven-year-old Jeffery Parker Jr. holds a sign as he stands with other demonstrators across the street from a Republican Party unity rally in Frankfort, Ky., May 22.
But about 30 demonstrators used Saturday’s meeting as an opportunity to blast Paul for misgivings he expressed about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow May 19 that he abhors racial discrimination, but suggested the federal government shouldn’t have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if the business owners don’t want to.
“It’s fundamentally un-American to oppose the Civil Rights Act,” said University of Louisville student Perry Green, flanked by a fellow protester carrying a placard declaring: “Rand The Klan’s Man.”
Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor and son of former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, didn’t mention the civil rights flap in brief remarks to supporters inside GOP headquarters. He refused to take questions when he left Republican headquarters and drove past the demonstrators standing across the street.
Paul has tried to step out of the spotlight, even canceling an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday, less than a week after trouncing Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson to win the Republican nomination.
He began the race as a longshot against Grayson for the nomination to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, a 78-year-old former major league pitcher who opted not to seek a third term. Employing an Internet fundraising model used by his father, Paul was able to raise some $3 million for the primary.
Democrats have seized on some of Paul’s comments since Election Day, including his criticism of President Barack Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill, calling it overtly anti-business.
“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,’” he said in an interview May 21 with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” ‘’I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”
Paul isn’t the first politician to criticize the government’s handling of the oil spill, but few have dared defend BP in the aftermath of last months’ explosion at the offshore rig that killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
But the comment about the Civil Rights Act was what most rankled Ashley Courchene, a retired registered nurse.
“I’m ashamed,” said Courchene, a Frankfort Democrat. “This makes me sick to my stomach that we, as an educated country, would consider electing someone with a Klan mentality to a public office.”