Rand Paul makes 1st public appearance since gaffes - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Rand Paul makes 1st public appearance since gaffes

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) -- Dressed in doctor scrubs, senatorial candidate Rand Paul sought to ditch the image of politician Tuesday in his first campaign appearance since a round of interviews in which he dismayed fellow Republicans by discussing his views on racial segregation.

A political firestorm has followed Paul since last week when he expressed misgivings about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, suggesting to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that the federal government shouldn't have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if business owners don't want to.

"I think they've used it as an issue to try to make me into something that I'm not," the Kentucky doctor told a friendly hometown audience at a Bowling Green civic club. "I was raised in a family that said that you judge people the same way Martin Luther King said, you judge people by their character not by the color of their skin."

His earlier comments questioning the Civil Rights Act sparked a protest outside the state Republican Party headquarters on Saturday. Some 30 demonstrators, one carrying a placard declaring "Rand The Klan's Man," stood quietly on a street corner across Capitol Avenue from a Republican rally where GOP loyalists had gathered to show unity heading into this fall's general election.

Since then, Paul has been reassessing his campaign staff. He said he expects there will be a campaign staff shake-up, though he declined to give details. He won the GOP nomination last week with a campaign staff made up largely of political novices and volunteers.

"We're still working out details," he said.

Campaign manager David Adams, who had been a Republican blogger in Nicholasville before joining up, will remain, but perhaps in a different role, Paul said.

Paul, who ran as a political outsider, also said he has made amends with the Republican establishment. He said he has had cordial discussions with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Paul's troubles since Election Day weren't evident in his warm reception in Bowling Green. Paul entered a small restaurant to applause from the local Lions Club. He drew chuckles when he used the words of English novelist Charles Dickens to describe last week's campaign victory: "It was the best of it times. It was the worst of times."

Paul accused his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, of starting the controversy. He did so, Paul said, by telling reporters that Paul wants to repeal the Civil Rights Act.

"It's never been my position, and it's not my position," Paul said. "That's the bad thing about politics, not only do you have to run to defend your position, you've got to defend the position they make up for you, and that makes it hard."

Paul, a first-time candidate who portrayed himself as a political outsider, had easily defeated GOP establishment favorite Trey Grayson in last week's primary race, which was closely watched nationally as a test of the tea party movement's strength. Paul said he was caught off guard by the controversy that ensued.

"We were patting ourselves on the back," said Paul, son of former Republican presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. "We thought we were in the middle of enjoying our great honeymoon, and it didn't last very long."

Paul said the campaign lined up a series of media interviews the day after the primary. "We got up at 5 the next morning, had our own satellite truck, and we did 20 interviews," he said. "I think we did one too many."

Paul said he was exhausted and unprepared for questions about the Civil Rights Act.

"Some of the brutal reality of politics is that people use politics as a bludgeon to separate us rather than to bring people together," he said.

Paul added, "I think those of you in my hometown hopefully know me better than what's been said about me, and I will go to great lengths to prove to people that I'm not whatever I'm being depicted in cartoon and thousands and thousands of stories across the country."

Cardine Harrison of Bowling Green, a social worker at the local Salvation Army and a retired manager for General Motors, said he has known Paul for nearly two decades and is convinced he is no racist.

"That doesn't mean his opinion is right," Harrison said. "But I do respect him. And I do not believe he is a racist."

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