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Town Branch Grant Quickly Turns Political

Karyn Czar / Josh James

Politicians were lining up this week tout a $14 million federal grant for Lexington’s Town Branch Trail project, but they don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on who deserves the credit.

The press releases came one after the other Tuesday – first from Sen. Mitch McConnell, then Rep. Andy Barr, Mayor Jim Gray, and Sen. Rand Paul – all praising the major investment in a highly-anticipated Lexington project. But with Gray and Paul locked in heated Senate campaign, disagreement soon bubbled up over who should be taking the bows.

In an email to supporters that began with the words “Hypocrisy Alert!” Gray acknowledged a letter Paul wrote in support of the grant, but took the fiscally-minded Republican to task for “voting against the TIGER grant program that provides this funding.”

At a town hall in Lexington Wednesday, Paul said the accusation overlooks the realities of voting on large, unwieldy budget bills.

"We've never had any specific votes on it, so [Gray] is being dishonest," the libertarian-leaning lawmaker said. "We vote every year because government is not doing the appropriation bills the way they should. All of the spending gets together in one huge package and because you object to that much money being spent doesn't mean you object to every item within the entire group of spending."

Paul told WUKY he received a thank you letter from Gray for supporting the project. In the email, a Gray spokesperson minimized the senator's role and suggested the one-time presidential candidate is desperately latching onto "anything that might trick Kentuckians into thinking he’s actually doing his job."

The issue could make another appearance on August 6,  when both candidates are scheduled to take the stage at the raucous  Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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