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Jackson resigns as state personnel secretary; Longmeyer will replace her

FRANKFORT — Nikki Jackson is leaving as secretary of the state Personnel Cabinet and will be replaced by Tim Longmeyer, who has been deputy secretary of the cabinet since January 2008.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced Wednesday that Jackson is resigning, effective, Jan. 7, 2011, to become vice chancellor for human resources with Maricopa Community College in Tempe, Ariz.

Rand Paul will debate Jack Conway Monday on KET

Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Saying he respects the voters of Kentucky but not the “inappropriate attacks” of his Democratic rival, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul confirmed Friday that he will participate in a televised debate Monday night with Democratic candidate Jack Conway.

Paul, who announced his decision about the debate on Kentucky Education Television, also said dozens of people over the last 18 months have brought “personally damaging information to us about my opponent and his family.”

“We won’t go there,” Paul said he told his staff.

Paul did not release any further information about his statement and did not take questions from reporters. He did say he wanted to raise the debate “to a higher plane.”

Conway campaign spokesman John Collins said in an e-mail that “Jack will debate on Monday without any preconditions…”

Bill Clinton will campaign for Jack Conway on eve of election

Former President Bill Clinton, left, spoke to a large crowd in front of the University of Kentucky administration building Monday. U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway stood next to Clinton. Charles Bertram | Staff

UPDATED AT 7:30 P.M.

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

LAWRENCEBURG — Former President Bill Clinton will campaign for Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway on the eve of the Nov. 2 election, a signal that national Democrats remain hopeful that Conway can beat Republican nominee Rand Paul.

Conway campaign spokeswoman Allison Haley confirmed Clinton’s return visit but said locations of Clinton’s appearances have not been finalized. Observers said its likely the campaign will attempt to use Clinton’s popularity to excite conservative Democrats in Eastern and Western Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the Conway camp began pivoting from a controversial ad about Paul’s college days, which garnered much national attention this week, toward the pocketbook issue of taxes.

Conway, during campaign stops in Central Kentucky, played up Paul’s conflicting statements about replacing the federal income tax with a 23 percent sales tax. Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee started running an ad Thursday that claimed “Rand Paul wants to put a 23 percent sales tax on everything you buy.”

The Paul campaign, however, has denied support for the sales tax. Paul wrote in a statement released by an anti-tax group last week that he supported the so-called FairTax, but later backed off, suggesting he only supports “a simpler tax code.”

Kentucky Poll: Rand Paul leads Jack Conway by 5 points

Coming up: In the Herald-Leader Wednesday, find out how the mayoral candidates fair in head-to-head match-ups.

PDF: Detailed poll results

By Jack Brammer and Bill Estep – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

With less than two weeks to go before the Nov. 2 election, Republican Rand Paul holds a slim lead over Democrat Jack Conway in their race for the U.S. Senate, a new Kentucky Poll shows.

Paul, a favorite of the Tea Party movement whose campaign has focused on limited government, holds a 5 point lead over Conway among likely voters — 48 percent to 43 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

“That’s not a great majority of a lead for Paul but I believe it’s almost impossible for a conservative Republican to lose in Kentucky this year,” said national political analyst Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

The telephone survey of 625 likely Kentucky voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Lexington Herald-Leader, WKYT-TV in Lexington and WAVE-TV in Louisville.

Other political observers said the relatively high level of undecided voters in the poll underscores the fluidity of the race.

Jack Conway has ‘no regrets’ about controversial TV ad

By Jack Brammer and Bill Estep – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway said Tuesday he has no regrets about his controversial TV ad that raises questions about the religious beliefs of his Republican rival, Rand Paul.

The ad quickly caught the attention of national media and political pundits. He faced tough questioning on NBC’s Today Show Tuesday morning and on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews on Monday evening.

Meanwhile, an anonymous woman referred to in the ad, which alleged that Paul tied her up when he was at Baylor University and forced her to worship a god called “Aqua Buddha,” told The Washington Post Tuesday that Conway’s ad is “over the top” but accurate.

“Yes, he was in a secret society, yes, he mocked religion, yes, the whole Aqua Buddha thing happened,” she told the Post. “There was a different side to him at one time and he’s pretending that it never existed. If he would just acknowledge it, it would all go away and it wouldn’t matter anymore.”

Her comments came after Paul, in an interview Monday on Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio show, was asked about the alleged incident with the woman in college and his involvement in a secret group at Baylor called the NoZe Brotherhood that mocked Christianity.

“It’s all lies” and “completely untrue,” Paul said. “It’s been on the Internet blogs about an anonymous woman who I have no idea who she is.”

Rand Paul ‘not sure’ if he will participate in final debate with Jack Conway

Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

UPDATED AT 7:30 P.M.

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Republican U. S. Senate nominee Rand Paul said Monday he is “not sure” if he will participate in an Oct. 25 debate on Kentucky Educational Television with Democratic rival Jack Conway.

Paul, participating in a morning news conference with several veterans in Lexington, said he was disappointed that Conway had ridiculed his religious beliefs in a TV ad over the weekend and he did not know if he wanted to appear in public again with Conway.

The Conway ad said Paul was in a secret group while in college called the NoZe Brotherhood that mocked Christianity. It also alleged that Paul tied up an anonymous woman while in college and forced her to bow down to a god named “Aqua Buddha.” It was based on articles about Paul’s days at Baylor University that have appeared in GQ magazine, The Washington Post and Politico.com in recent weeks and months.

Paul, in an interview Monday on Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio show, was asked about the brotherhood and the alleged incident with the woman in college.

“It’s all lies, completely untrue,” Paul said. “It’s been on the Internet blogs about an anonymous woman who I have no idea who she is.”

Rand Paul to Jack Conway: ‘You demean the state of Kentucky’

Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

LOUISVILLE – A debate filled with unabashed personal attacks concluded Sunday night with Republican Rand Paul briskly brushing past Democrat Jack Conway, refusing to shake the hand of an opponent who raised questions about his religious beliefs.

“Jack, have you no decency? Have you no shame?” Paul asked Conway during the fourth of five scheduled debates between Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates.

Paul said Conway’s actions were “a disgrace” that should disqualify Conway from the heated contest Kentuckians will decide Nov. 2.

Paul’s initial comments in the debate focused on a Conway TV ad that began airing over the weekend that says Paul was in a secret brotherhood while in college at Baylor University that mocked Christianity. It also alleged that he tied up a woman while in college and forced her to bow down to a god named “Aqua Buddha.”

The ad is based on articles about Paul’s days at Baylor that have appeared in GQ magazine, The Washington Post and Politico.com in recent weeks and months.

Jack Conway questions Rand Paul’s religious faith in new ad

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway questions the religious faith of his Republican opponent, Rand Paul, in a new television ad launched Saturday.

“Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that calls the Holy Bible a hoax …?” asks the ad. “Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up. Tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his God was Aqua Buddha?”

Paul’s campaign immediately attacked the ad, saying Conway “stepped way over the line” in “a shameful and despicable ad that questions Dr. Paul’s Christian faith.”

Paul said in a statement that he is a “pro-life Christian” who has “never written or spoken anything that would indicate otherwise.”

Paul is a member of The Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, where his wife Kelley is a deacon.

The Conway campaign said Paul needs to explain why he joined a secret society in college after the president of Baylor University banned it in 1978, two years before Paul attended the Texas school, because it “made fun of not only the Baptist religion, but Christianity and Christ.”

Rand Paul and Jack Conway show sharp differences in third debate

Democrat Jack Conway, left, and Republican Rand Paul are running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky.

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

PADUCAH — Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Paul Rand showed sharp differences on major issues like immigration, unionization and term limits in the third debate of their U.S. Senate race Thursday morning.

During the nearly hour-long debate sponsored by the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, Paul also said publicly for the first time that he would vote in a Senate Republican caucus for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Louisville to lead the GOP.

He has said before that he supports McConnell for the leadership position but has hedged to say he would vote for whomever the caucus selects. That gave rise to speculation that he might back U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, for the leadership position.

Questioned by a panel of journalists, Conway and Paul disagreed on most issues during the debate in front of about 300 people at the Carson Center in downtown Paducah.

The two candidates were divided on the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for labor to unionize workers.

Bill Clinton scheduled to campaign for Jack Conway on Monday

Former President Bill Clinton

MORE: New Rand Paul ad contradicts 2009 statements about Medicare deductible

MORE: National GOP ad accuses Conway of waffling on Bush tax cuts

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – Former President Bill Clinton, whom a recent national poll said is the most popular politician in America, is scheduled to come to Kentucky on Monday to campaign for Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway.

Clinton’s close friend, Lexington businessman Jerry Lundergan, confirmed the scheduled visit on Wednesday.

Lundergan said the location of Clinton’s visit has not yet been finalized.

Clinton’s appearance in the state would be designed to help offset an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. Polls have consistently shown that Republicans say they’re more likely to vote in the Nov. 2 election than Democrats.

Polls have shown Conway, the state’s attorney general, generally trailing Republican Rand Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon who is making his first bid for public office, although some recent surveys have shown the race in a statistical dead heat.