By BRUCE SCHREINER
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 1:41 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A Kentucky man who recounts his son's lost battle with drug addiction in a TV commercial for Democrat Jack Conway says he was insulted when Republican Rand Paul termed the Senate campaign ad "creepy."
Mike Donta, who is shown standing at his son's grave in the ad, told The Associated Press that "it's a shame that Rand's reaction is to attack me instead of focus on solutions" to Kentucky's drug problems.
Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton said Paul's criticism wasn't directed at Donta.
"Dr. Paul has deep sympathy for Mr. Donta and all of the Kentucky families that have suffered from the scourge of drug abuse," Benton said. "His comment was about Jack Conway and his attempt to politicize this tragedy, which we found in poor taste."
Donta's son committed suicide in July after fighting an addiction to prescription painkillers for three years.
The 30-second Conway campaign ad is airing in eastern Kentucky, where addiction to prescription painkillers has become rampant. A Conway campaign spokesman called it a significant ad buy, but wouldn't give a dollar amount.
The ad accuses Paul of being out of touch on the severity of the drug problem. It shows Donta holding the hand of his young grandson, who was left fatherless when Donta's son died.
Donta, a Conway supporter and longtime union activist from Boyd County, was appointed to a state labor post by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear. Organized labor is among Conway's staunchest supporters.
In the ad, Donta says he can't believe Paul said that drugs aren't a pressing issue in Kentucky. Paul, a Bowling Green eye doctor, was quoted by the AP last summer as saying he doesn't think drugs are a "real pressing issue" in the Senate race, but has since stressed that he realizes drug abuse is a problem.
While campaigning in eastern Kentucky this week, Paul called the drug ad "kind of tacky and really dishonest and kind of creepy." Paul said it brought up a personal tragedy "for political purposes, as if I'm somehow responsible."
"That was directly an insult to me," Donta said, adding that it was also insulting to other families dealing with drug addiction tragedies.
"I never once claimed that he was personally responsible for the death of my son," Donta said. "My ad only claimed that he wasn't on top of the drug crisis and just doesn't understand what's going on within this state."
Donta said that he would be willing to meet with Paul to discuss the drug problem, which is a sensitive subject in eastern Kentucky, a crucial battleground in the Senate race and a hotbed for marijuana growers and drug dealers selling prescription pills and methamphetamines.
Conway, the state's attorney general, has tried to portray Paul as out of touch on crime issues, and has highlighted his efforts to curb an illegal prescription pill pipeline feeding the addiction of many Kentuckians.
Paul has said he prefers local initiatives over federally based responses to combat drug trafficking and addiction problems. However, Clay County Sheriff Kevin Johnson said Paul assured him recently that he won't seek funding cuts for regional drug task forces.
Associated Press writer Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky., contributed to this report.