FRANKFORT, Ky. — Rand Paul will return to the U.S. Senate following a failed presidential campaign that changed the way Kentuckians vote for the country’s highest office.

Paul received 57.2 percent of the vote to Gray’s 42.8.

Paul defeated Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to win a second six-year term on Tuesday. First elected in 2010, the Republican from Bowling Green was known nationally for his Libertarian leanings and his willingness to challenge his party’s platform on issues like criminal justice reform. But his once-promising presidential bid was upended by another unconventional candidate: Donald Trump.

In Carroll County, Paul defeated Gray, 2,193 votes to 1,625. In Trimble County, Paul received 2,326 votes to Gray’s 1,434.

Paul never conceded his Senate seat, filing to run for re-election and president at the same time. A state law banning candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election threatened to sink his efforts. But Paul got around it by donating $250,000 to the state Republican Party to hold a presidential caucus on a different date from the GOP Senate primary.

The strategy invited criticism from Democrats that he wasn’t committed to Kentucky’s people or solving its problems. They turned to Gray, the two-term mayor of Kentucky’s second largest city, hoping he could capitalize on Paul’s distractions to send a Democrat to the Senate for the first time since 1999.

But Gray’s candidacy came as the state Democratic Party was in disarray and forced to commit most of its resources to defending the state House of Representatives, the last legislative chamber in the South still controlled by Democrats. Even as Paul ran a slimmed-down version of his 2010 campaign, Gray received little outside help while Paul benefited from an influx of spending from outside groups.

Gray raised more money than Paul since January, and he even threw in $2 million of his own cash to finance his campaign — helping him outspend Paul by about $1 million on TV ads. But Paul had a built-in advantage with Kentucky’s political history favoring Republicans in most federal elections.

“I like how independent- minded he is. He tends to be more toward the Libertarian Party, which probably goes closer to what my beliefs are,” said 30-year-old Sam Treesh of Nicholasville, a small business owner.

Gray was trying to make history as Kentucky’s first openly gay Senate candidate, a remarkable feat in a state that made national headlines last year for a county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But the issue never came up in the campaign, as Gray focused on attacking Paul’s presidential ambitions and his opposition to a bill pending in the U.S. Senate that would rescue the pensions and health care benefits for thousands of retired union Kentucky coal miners.
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