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West Kentuckian Wins Senate Seat!
The headline I didn’t see in the contest for US Senate that concluded last Tuesday evening was “West Kentuckian wins Senate seat”. 
DrDr. Rand Paul in Cayce Kentucky. Paul, according to the campaign website, has lived in Bowling Green for sixteen or seventeen years. Paul grew up in Texas in a big family.  He went to school in Texas and settled in Kentucky with his wife, Kelly. Paul opened a medical practice and commenced to raising a family, coaching his sons' sports teams and volunteering for the Lions Club.
Kelly Paul is from Russellville, a town that figured prominently in virtually every Comment on Kentucky broadcast while Al Smith hosted. I’ve never been to Russellville physically but I’ve been there virtually listening to Smith’s weekly descriptions. It sounds like a nice place to grow up. It must have been since the Pauls could have settled anywhere and they chose West Kentucky.
Why does this make any difference at all in the way Paul will conduct himself in the Senate?
First, Paul knows how it feels to live outside of the inner circle. Those who live in parts of Kentucky not the Golden Triangle get accustomed to being ignored by Frankfort politicians (until election time).  If he is like the rest of us out here, he’s had to deal with bureaucrats who routinely set policy and priorities without consultation with those on slow time. A frustration with state and federal government that only seems to get in touch to tap for money and/or enforce a regulation is a very big reason why West Kentuckians are turning toward conservatism.
Even those who believed in the Democratic ideals of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Kentucky’s own Vice President Alban Barkley have become tired of the status quo.  Like the rolling verdant fields of the Purchase, West Kentucky is fertile ground for anti government sentiment. The question has become not “What have you done for us lately” but “What have you done TO us lately?” West Kentuckians from Bowling Green to Paducah are fed up with government that asks not what we can do for our country, but asks what we can do for the party in power.
Second, one only has to spend a few minutes with Dr. Paul to realize that he isn’t a big city slicker politician. His blessing (which may become his curse) is that he truly believes he can do what he says.
Paul may be the most naïve man to serve in Congress since Mr. Smith went to Washington. His father, Ron Paul, may believe in the same principles as his son, but one gets the sense that the senior Dr. Paul is well aware that he has little power to change the country’s course from his seat in the US House of Representatives.
Rand Paul has never spent a day wondering where money will come from for rent, utilities or food. He has never had the visceral fear of many Kentuckians that he has no health insurance and no way to afford it. His house is in no danger of being foreclosed on. His factory isn’t closing. His unemployment isn’t about to run out. Paul may know intellectually that jobs are an issue, but he’s never been unemployed. Whether Dr. Paul has the empathy to understand the problems that face his fellow Kentuckians remains to be seen.
Rand Paul is not the first West Kentuckian to serve in the US Senate. He is the first since Democrat Wendell Ford came out of the governor’s chair and moved to the Senate where he stayed until he chose to retire. Despite what Paul says about term limits, he’s given no indication he will term limit himself. West Kentucky may very well be the home of one of Kentucky’s US senators for many years to come.
Dr. Rand Paul has been cast as a villain by opponents. Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC graphically described last Wednesday how Paul can singlehandedly bring about a world depression. Supporters cast Paul as the man who will singlehandedly restore America to greatness. Both are exaggerations.
Paul has a new job that only 99 other men and women hold. He’ll have the job for at least the next six years. If he is smart, he will take some time to learn his way around before he picks a fight with the White House.
It is up to him whether he represents the people of Kentucky, all of them, not just those who voted for him. He could decide to ignore over forty percent of Kentucky and spend his time scoring points on the other team and doing talk shows.
It is up to the senator elect to decide if “West Kentuckian elected to the US Senate” is something the folks back home will be proud of two years from now.

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