Rand Paul draws largest crowd yet for chamber, and some protestors
Clay Jacksonfirstname.lastname@example.org Protestors wave signs at the entrance to Danville County Club on Thursday as visitors arrive to hear U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seen in the photo at top, address a Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce luncheon. (Clay Jacksonemail@example.com / September 1, 2011)
Paul was the featured speaker at the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Series luncheon at the Danville Country Club. He drew easily the largest crowd yet — well over 100 people — as well as the first throng of protestors to show up for one of the events.
Paul, a figurehead for the insurgent Tea Party movement that carried him and other candidates into office last fall, gave a speech packed with his ideas on issues ranging from entitlement reform to what Paul sees as the onerous effects of the Environmental Protection Agency.
As it was during his campaign, the government's detrimental role in the economy and people's lives was a common refrain during the speech.
Paul gave a number of extreme examples of federal meddling, including a rabbit farmer facing jail time and over $1 million in fines for failure to secure a proper license, and blamed the government for its role in both the housing boom and bust and high gas prices.
Paul drew praise from Mike Perros, president of the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, for packing more content into his speech than other members of Kentucky's congressional delegation who have been part of the policy series, now in its second year.
Paul's presence was not as welcome among those assembled down the road.
A group of about 25 protestors made their presence felt, albeit hundreds of yards away from the clubhouse dining room. The gathering, mostly made of of members of MoveOn.org, a left-leaning activist group, assembled on a lot at the end of the driveway to the country club toting signs decrying the positions espoused by Paul and the Tea Party. Some protestors were unhappy when they were asked to move off part of country club grounds adjacent to Lexington Road, but police said the group was peaceful and there were no problems.
Paul’s stance on rolling back environmental¿regulations was one of the things that moved Boyle County resident Jim Porter to join the protest.
“Rand Paul is anti-EPA and he’s anti-FEMA,”¿Porter said. “He thinks Eastern Kentucky should be left to mountaintop removal mining and polluted air and water.”
Paul said he is not in favor of completely doing away with the EPA, but said many regulations are unnecessary.
"We have a lot of rules that have controlled air and water pollution, but we don’t need all these new regulations in addition to what we already have in place,” Paul said. “The Obama administration has introduced $60 billion in new regulation since January. The rules become so much of a burden that they are harmful to individuals and the economy.”
Apart from his policy stances, and his father's presidential run (U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas), Paul has drawn attention for his willingness to break with the Republican Party on issues like cutting military spending (he favors cuts) and his refusal for taking his seat on the back bench with other junior senators. In addition to putting forward his own deficit reduction proposal, Paul has spoken out on the Senate floor.
Before addressing the local chamber, Paul said his unconventional tack has to do with both personal and collective timelines.
“There is probably a shorter window for me, because I don't see myself staying in Congress for 30 or 40 years,” Paul said. “More importantly, the problems we face are imminent. When you see the riots in Europe and the rising debt, if we don't get things fixed we could be in danger of that.”
Thursday's appearance was first scheduled for last month but was postponed due to other obligations. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paula Fowler said the work to get Paul to the event, which began in February, paid off.
“We really are thrilled with how it turned out,” Fowler said. “It’s the largest crowd yet. During the question portion the senator gave some very straightforward answers to all the questions asked of him."