FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Evangelical leader James Dobson became the latest abortion foe to endorse one of Kentucky's U.S. Senate hopefuls Monday, saying he would back Republican Trey Grayson even though GOP front-runner Rand Paul also has said he opposes abortion.
Grayson and Paul recently have been arguing of late about who is most opposed to abortion, a key issue among the state's evangelical voting bloc. Both describe themselves as "100 percent pro-life," and both say they would support a constitutional ban on abortion.
Despite mirrored stands on the hot-button issue, anti-abortion advocates have given conflicting endorsements. Grayson has the support of Kentucky Right to Life and Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Christian organization Focus on the Family. Paul is favored by Concerned Women for America and Northern Kentucky Right to Life.
Grayson and Paul are among five Republicans seeking the GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, who opted not to run for a third term. The Republican winner will face one of five Democrats in the race, including Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo and Attorney General Jack Conway.
"Trey Grayson is the only candidate with the conviction to lead on the issues that matter to Kentucky families," Dobson said in a written statement released Monday. "His unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life and the family resonates with me."
The Paul campaign shrugged off the Dobson endorsement.
"Interestingly, this is the second time in two weeks Dr. Dobson has ventured abroad to endorse an establishment moderate in a U.S. Senate race," Paul campaign manager David Adams said. "As far as reaction from Rand Paul's campaign, I'd say we will stick with our conservative pro-life endorsements from Sarah Palin, Jim Bunning" and others.
The contrast that's lacking on abortion among Republican candidates will likely be abundant in the fall general election. Democratic front-runners Mongiardo and Conway support the right of a woman to decide whether to get an abortion.
"As a doctor, I understand that a federal ban on abortion could imperil some women's health," said Mongiardo, a Hazard physician. "The fact is, however, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that women have the right to make their own reproductive decisions."
Both Mongiardo and Conway have said they oppose late-term abortions.
"I believe abortion should be as rare as possible, but should be kept safe and legal," Conway said. "I do not support a constitutional amendment to ban abortion. I do support a woman's right to make her own reproductive health choices in consultation with her family, her doctor and her spiritual adviser."