Election 2010: In Ky. Senate race, voters send message

As Kentucky's senate race draws to a close, Rand Paul and Attorney General Jack Conway made their final pitches for votes Monday in Louisville.
By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 3:09 PM

BARDSTOWN, KY. - In the crowded lobby of a county office building, Steve McRay filled out his ballot - all except for the top spot.

The 62-year-old registered Democrat voted for President Obama in 2008. But on Tuesday, after months of hype and a barrage of TV advertising surrounding one of the most closely watched races in the country, he wasn't sure who to support in the Kentucky Senate race.

McRay thought that Obama's health-care plan wasn't socialized enough. But he also thought the stimulus plan that was paying for the repaving of Bardstown's main street, just behind him, was a waste and hadn't created enough new jobs.

Finally, McRay picked: Republican Rand Paul. Not that he had studied the candidate's positions in detail: In the end, McRay decided his vote was more about the message than the candidate.

"I looked through all the ballot, and filled the ballot in, and then came back," said McRay, a bearded man in a ball cap who said he was a singer and actor. "I just wanted a change. Get another voice in there."

In this compact, well-preserved town in Kentucky's Bourbon-whiskey country, voters seemed split between Paul and Democrat Jack Conway. Precinct officials said nearly 900 voters had streamed into the building by noon, jamming up the lobby so much that others turned away, fearing they'd exceed their lunch break.

"You know the name... so I figured he had a lot of his father in him," said Jeffrey Blackstone, who owns a commercial carpet business, about Paul. Paul's father is famously libertarian U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.). The son, Blackstone said, supported business-friendly policies, and presented a happy medium for a man disappointed with incumbents.

"He had politics in his blood," said Blackstone. "But [he's] not a politician."

On the other side was Nancy Mattingly, 66, a retiree in a sherbert-green tracksuit. She said she worried about Conway's threat that Paul would increase Medicare deductibles. "I can't afford that," Mattingly said. Then, in a recession-focused race where the president has appeared mainly as a punching bag, Mattingly said Obama was the reason she'd supported the Democrat.

"If they give Obama the chance," she said, "I think he will bring us out of it."

Earlier in the day, in the wealthy and liberal Highlands district of Louisville, many voters who showed up at dawn to vote for Conway said their real goal was to cast a ballot against the tea party favorite.

"I think Rand Paul is a dangerous person," said Carolyn Brooks, 65, a historic-preservation consultant who voted in a historic Baptist church. She cited Paul's statements about replacing income tax with a national sales tax and undoing parts of the health-care overhaul. "I can't fathom [that Paul is projected to win]...This is like a Halloween joke."

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