FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Riley Gaines, the former University of Kentucky swimmer, who spoke out against transgender women competing in women's sports, appeared in Sen. Rand Paul's latest campaign ad.
The ad, titled "Fairness," features Gaines saying that girls' sports dreams are "being taken away" by transgender athletes. As Gaines refers to the trans athletes as men, photos of Lia Thomas, a transgender athlete who swam for the University of Pennsylvania, appear in the ad.
Gaines competed against Thomas and tied for fifth in the NCAA Swimming Championships in March of 2022. Shortly after, Gaines told LEX 18 News that she felt she wasn't on a level playing field and felt defeated going into the championships.
"I just tried to go into it wanting to do my best, wanting to compete for that top spot, but it is a bit kind of like a defeating feeling for sure going into a meet where you're kind of automatically put at a disadvantage," Gaines said during an April 2nd interview with LEX 18. "I definitely think this past week, having a transgender swimmer win a national title for a female position, being a biological male, really just opens a whole new door to a whole different realm."
In Paul's campaign ad, Gaines refers to that experience.
"Sadly, few stood up for me. But Rand Paul is not afraid to fight for fairness for women and girls," Gaines says in the ad.
On Wednesday, Gaines told LEX 18 that's why she wanted to align herself with Paul.
"As someone with experience in dealing with this and seeing the implications of what this has - one athlete that has to face this is one too many," Gaines said. "That's why I'm honored to stand alongside Mr. Rand Paul, who is willing to stand up for myself and future female athletes."
"Men have their sports," said Paul. "Why do they have to come over and try to take women's sports?"
Charles Booker, Paul's opponent in the U.S. Senate race, has previously spoken out against Kentucky's efforts to ban trans girls from playing on girls' teams. In February, while speaking at the Fairness Rally, Booker called fairness "our fight for humanity."
"There are efforts underway to block our children from being able to engage in sports, to lead in the classroom and the community all because of their identities," said Booker at the rally.
Booker told the crowd he believes Kentucky is focusing on the wrong issues.
"They would rather focus on banning trans youth from playing in sports than making sure that you have health care," he said.
Booker and Paul differ on many different issues. As Kentucky approaches Election Day, those differences will be emphasized. However, they may not be discussed in the form of a debate.
On Saturday, Booker tweeted that Paul declined to debate him on KET.
"He doesn’t want to face the people of Kentucky, and he is terrified to face me," Booker tweeted.
On Wednesday, Paul told LEX 18 that he worries about political violence.
"I think that debates should involve civility and should involve parties that are actually willing to address questions," said Paul. "And I think that there's been a certain tenor, so far, that really involves more accepting of political violence - that I think worries me and makes me concerned."
On Tuesday, Booker tweeted that KET debates are "a fixture in Kentucky politics."
"The debate is neutral, and the candidates do not set the terms," said Booker. "It is a statewide platform to reach all Kentuckians."