The day after Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway secured the Democratic Senate nomination he took direct aim at his Republican opponent, Rand Paul, calling the tea party favorite outside the mainstream.
Conway pointed to several positions Paul has publicly taken — including support for repealing the American With Disabilities Act and abolishing the Department of Education — and suggested he’s going to run hard against the way Paul has rallied the tea partiers.
“I understand there’s frustration in the country. I understand there’s frustration in Kentucky,” Conway said when I asked him about Paul’s tea party base. “But my question is, how do we use that passion? Metaphorically, do we want to heat the building or do we want to burn it down?”
Conway said Paul’s approach was “destructive rather than constructive” and would hurt him in the end. “These are not the views of mainstream Kentuckians,” he said.
As for himself, Conway pushed back on Republican claims that he’s a liberal. Conway was billed as the progressive choice in the primary — earning endorsements from MoveOn and DailyKos — but he told me today he doesn’t apply the label to himself.
“I call myself moderate, always have,” Conway said. He pointed to his efforts fighting child pornography as attorney general (he founded the state’s Cyber Crimes Unit in 2008 to combat online child predators) and his support for the Second Amendment as evidence that he has a record focused on mainstream Kentucky concerns.
Earlier today, the NRSC pointed to Conway’s Kos endorsement, and the survey he filled out for the site to get it, to suggest that Conway was too liberal for Kentucky. I asked about the charge in our interview.
“I’d have to go back and look at the survey,” he said when I asked him about the characterization of his answers. He stood by his support for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — but at the same time emphasized that he thinks marriage “is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.”
Conway said he’d “welcome any President of either party to our Commonwealth” when I asked if he’d invite President Obama to campaign for him. If Obama did come, Conway said he’d “take the opportunity to tell him what I what I disagree with him on and what I agree with him about.”
Despite the GOP charges that he’s too liberal, Conway says he can win Republican votes in the fall. He said that his “pro-business record” gives him a bipartisan tent.
“I get a lot of Republican support,” he said.
Note: This post has been updated.