Rand Paul predicts his fiscal conservatism will win over Texans

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Rand Paul predicts his fiscal conservatism will win over Texans
By Rebecca Elliott, Houston Chronicle Updated: July 17, 2015 10:51pm

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul greets a supporter at the Hyatt Regency in Houston. Photo: Gary Coronado /Houston Chronicle / © 2015 Houston Chronicle
Photo: Gary Coronado /Houston Chronicle
920x920 (1)Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul greets a supporter at the Hyatt Regency in Houston.
HOUSTON — Rand Paul predicted his brand of fiscal conservatism would give him the edge in the Republican fight for his home state of Texas, where the junior senator from Kentucky returned Friday for the first time since announcing his presidential bid.
Paul’s libertarian grab-bag speech before a few hundred mostly young attendees at a downtown Houston rally touched on a wide range of issues, from responsible spending to privacy, criminal justice reform to lower taxes.

“Texans are very conservative, very fiscally conservative, and I think the message will ultimately resonate that I’m the one in the race who actually will not only talk the talk, but walk the walk,” Paul told the Chronicle following his speech in a Hyatt Regency ballroom.

He criticized fellow Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas for supporting a budget that would have increased defense spending without any accompanying spending cuts: “You can’t be fiscally conservative if you want to increase defense spending by $200 billion and not offset it.”

Paul’s comments echoed the pitch he made earlier to supporters at the low-key rally, citing his harder line on spending in an attempt to set himself apart from the Republican field.

“I am fiscally conservative like some of them say they are, but I’m also conservative in the sense that no money can be spent that we don’t have, no matter even if it’s for a good purpose,” Paul told the audience.

He also pointed to his commitment to criminal justice reform, which he framed as part of his push for smaller government.

“Big government not only messes up by getting involved in your business, but big government’s also unfair and discriminatory in the war on drugs and in your private life,” Paul said before voicing support for President Barack Obama’s move earlier this week to commute the sentences of dozens of drug offenders. “Our jails are full of black and brown people and it’s unfair and we ought to end it.”

He reiterated his call for a complete reassessment of the government’s War on Drugs.

“When the Republican party becomes the party that believes in defending the Sixth Amendment as much as the Second Amendment, we’re going to win every election,” Paul said, referring to the right to a speedy and public trial and the right to bear arms.

He also took shots at Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, calling America’s involvement in Libya a “huge mistake” and criticizing Clinton in connection with the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

“We have to go head-to-head, knuckle-to-knuckle with the Clintons. They don’t play nice,” Paul said. “We need to play hardball.

Paul’s speech was followed by a book signing, with fundraisers scheduled in Houston later Friday and Saturday. His book “Taking a Stand” was released in May.

Paul’s fundraising lags behind that of most of Texas’ other native sons.

Taking in $6.9 million in the period ending June 30, Paul out-raised former Texas Gov. Rick Perry by nearly $6 million, but trailed Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by wide margins, as their campaigns raised $14.3 million and $11.4 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Super PACs supporting Perry, Cruz and Bush each brought in $16.8 million to $103 million.

Those backing Paul have yet to report their second-quarter fundraising totals.

“Paul’s bigger issue has nothing to do with taxes or Texas,” said Texas-based Republican strategist Joe Brettell, noting that Paul has the campaign organization to compete. “It has to do with the fact that he lacks a major Super PAC to keep him in the top tier.”

The money race was far from the minds of rally attendees.

“The words he spoke on racial equality were really important to me, and I’m really glad he talked about that,” said Philippe Dubourdieu, 18, a Uruguayan native who recently received his citizenship and said Paul is the frontrunner to receive his first presidential vote.

For Jaxn Hill, 51, it is Paul’s commitment to small government that sets him apart from the rest of the Republican field, even the Texans among them.

“Of course we like Ted Cruz,” said Hill, of The Woodlands. “But I feel like Rand Paul has a better grasp of how to make the government smaller, less intrusive.”

rebecca.elliott@chron.com

twitter.com/rfelliott

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