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Another of the candidates for the U.S. Senate seat Jim Bunning is vacating came through Shelby County last week.
Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican, spoke Thursday night at the Stratton Center in a group of about 20 at a Republican gathering about his position on a variety of issues.
Grayson is in a tight race with Rand Paul of Bowling Green with less than two weeks remaining before the primary, and he emphasized in his remarks Thursday that he had won the endorsement of both state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) and state Sen. Gary Tapp (R-Shelbyville).
He took questions from the group, which included Montell, but he wanted first to emphasize why he had changed parties a few years ago, how he was one of only two Republicans elected statewide in modern history to win consecutive terms and why he sees himself as the candidate best aligned with Republican values.
“I’m the one most consistent with the Republican Party platform,” he said. “I believe we have to get spending under control.”
Grayson was elected to office in November 2003 in his first run for political office, and at the time of his election was the youngest Secretary of State in the country. But before that, he was a Democrat.
He said he had some friends in graduate school at Harvard who were Republicans, and they kept trying to talk him into switching parties.
He said that when he went back to attend the 30th anniversary of the of Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP), which was created to serve as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy and to inspire Harvard students into careers in politics and public service, he encountered one of them again.
“I saw [a friend] Frank, and he said, ‘When are you going be become a Republican?’ So we went to brunch, and it wasn’t long after that that I changed party affiliation,” he said.
To illustrate his embrace of his party, Grayson touted his support for the second amendment and addressed the issue of immigration by saying he thinks the United States should focus more on tightening border security and discontinue incentives that draw immigrants into the country.
“We have to end amnesty and birthright citizenship,” he said. “It’s not right that a child of illegal immigrants can get citizenship just by being born here.”
He said he supports the Patriot Act but said, “We have to become more efficient in defense spending.”
But when Grayson described himself as a conservative Republican, he was challenged by Dave Jenkins of Shelby County to name one conservative decision he had made during his time in office.
He said he had served on the board of a pregnancy center and had worked to encourage mothers to keep their babies, as well as endorsing that they learn parenting skills.
Montell asked Grayson about his vision for education, to which he responded that although he thought the federal government should stay out of educational issues for the most part, he admits that school systems need federal grant money to fund such programs as special needs.
He said he also is in favor of charter schools – for which Montell has led a push – and said that Kentucky is one of only 10 states that don’t have them.
And he renounced the new health-care reform bill, saying he is against it because it will raise taxes for small business owners, forcing them to hire fewer employees.
“Also, this health-care bill slashes Medicare, so it’s important to get it repealed to put Medicare back on a more stable footing,” he said.
A questioner asked Grayson why he is not running a more positive election campaign instead of attacking his opponent.
“We’ve been running an issue-based campaign,” he said. “We let you know where we stand, and you can make the choice.”