Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin said Wednesday he wouldn’t vote for Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Rand Paul in next year’s Republican presidential primary, and would instead cast a ballot for Detroit neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
“I like Ben Carson, he’s not taking shots at people. He’s intelligent, he’s articulate, he’s respected. There’s a lot about him that I think America would do well to have at the helm,” Bevin said during a gubernatorial debate on Kentucky Sports Radio.
Bevin has previously supported Paul’s White House bid. And his comments could prove awkward this weekend. Paul is scheduled to stump for Bevin at a rally Saturday in Frankfort.
Bevin said he thinks “the world of Rand” but at this point he’s “looking at people who I think would have the best chance of uniting all the pieces.”
“In terms of who I would select right now for the next president he would not be the first choice that I would make,” Bevin said.
Support for Paul’s presidential campaign has been flagging in recent months, with only a little more than 2 percent of likely Republican voters saying they’d vote for him, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/ NBC Poll.
In the gubernatorial debate Wednesday morning, Bevin’s Democratic opponent Jack Conway pounced on his opponent’s comments.
“Wow that’s going to make for a testy campaign event this weekend, Matt,” Conway said.
After the debate, Bevin turned to Twitter to say he’s not endorsing any presidential candidates.
“To be clear..I like Ben Carson, but am not endorsing him or anyone for POTUS..Have never endorsed in my life..If I did would #StandWithRand,” Bevin tweeted.
Conway refused to say who he would vote for in the presidential race, except that he would vote for the Democratic nominee.
Independent candidate Drew Curtis said he would vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump.
In the hour-long debate, candidates discussed abortion, coal and tax returns.
In response to a question about whether defunding the state’s share for Planned Parenthood, Conway said he doesn’t support any public money going for abortion services. But he didn’t say he would pull the state funding for Planned Parenthood.
“I would prefer to see all family planning be done in the private context,” Conway said.
Bevin, who supports defunding the program, called Conway’s response a “cop out.”
Drew Curtis said that the first thing he would do as governor would be to “drop a big fat audit” on Kentucky’s pension systems, which have denied open records requests of their financial details.
“I find that problematic, I would like to see what’s going on over there,” Curtis said.
Bevin also faced questions about his ongoing refusal to release his tax returns, saying “it’s not the business of people to go into what I’ve done or not done with my money.”
The most recent public opinion poll showed Bevin and Conway in a statistical tie, with Drew Curtis taking 8 percent of the vote. A new poll will be released late Wednesday.