FRANKFORT — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Trey Grayson picked up a key endorsement Monday from a popular Eastern Kentucky politician, only to see a national Christian leader revoke his support and throw it to Grayson’s chief rival, Rand Paul.
U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, a Somerset Republican who rarely makes endorsements in party primaries, offered his full-throated support for Grayson in the May 18 GOP primary election.
“Trey Grayson will be a strong fiscal conservative in Washington, just like he has been as secretary of state,” Rogers said. “He cut spending in his office by 15 percent without cutting services. That’s the kind of leadership we need to cut out-of-control spending, pay down the debt and balance the budget.”
Meanwhile, James Dobson Jr., founder of the influential Christian organization Focus on the Family, said he made “an embarrassing mistake” last week in endorsing Grayson and instead will back Paul.
The Grayson campaign had hoped to garner headlines solely with Rogers’ endorsement and was disappointed and puzzled by Dobson’s switch.
Dobson said in a statement Monday that he was “given misleading information” about Paul.
“Senior members of the GOP told me Dr. Paul is pro-choice and that he opposes many conservative perspectives, so I endorsed his opponent,” Dobson said. “But now I’ve received further information from obstetricians in Kentucky whom I trust, and from interviewing the candidate himself.
Dobson said he is satisfied that Paul is “avidly pro-life” and believes that “life begins at conception.” He did not identify “senior members of the GOP” and obstetricians he talked to, and calls to his Colorado office were not returned.
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon and son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said he thanks Dobson for his support and for his “thorough investigation of the views of the candidates in this race.”
Paul’s campaign said it was going to air a statewide radio ad with Dobson’s comments.
Grayson campaign manager Nate Hodson responded by again accusing Paul of lying about his stances on abortion and “falsifying a right to life questionnaire.”
Hodson was referring to a disagreement between the Kentucky Right to Life Association and Paul. The association, which is backing Grayson, claims Paul did not answer one of its 15 questions dealing with cloning in a survey of candidates. Paul said he did answer the question and that he is 100 percent pro-life.
Meanwhile, the Grayson campaign touted the potential benefits of Rogers’ endorsement, noting that Rogers has received 70 percent or more of the vote in the 5th Congressional District since 1992. Hodson said Republican voter turnout in Rogers’ district is expected to be the highest statewide.
“Kentuckians need a senator who will work with me and the rest of our federal delegation to fight for our values and priorities,” Rogers said in a statement supporting Grayson.
Paul has been openly critical of Republicans who “earmark” federal money for projects in the districts, a practice Rogers has used aggressively over the years. Paul has said he supports a ban on all earmarks, but Grayson has said it would be irresponsible to ban all earmarks.
Grayson said in a statement that Rogers “has always made us proud in Kentucky, and I am thrilled to have his vote and support.”
David Adams, campaign manager for Paul, declined to directly address Rogers’ endorsement. “No one, at this point, expects anything but a big Rand Paul lead based on his support for balanced budgets, term limits, a pro-life and pro-family agenda and a strong national defense,” he said.
Adams noted that U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Republican from Southgate who is not seeking re-election, has endorsed Paul. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, has not endorsed in the race.