BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Long before launching his Senate campaign as a crusader for a spendthrift government, Rand Paul showed a frugal side at home that neighbors and friends see as endearing — and sometimes amusing.
In his high-end subdivision, most homeowners hire crews to keep their lawns manicured, but the man aspiring to become Kentucky's junior senator does yard duty himself, though the chore now sometimes falls on his sons. Paul has spent plenty of sweltering days cutting his own grass on a riding mower that has endured plenty of seasons, neighbors say.
"He's not the greatest lawn mower in the world," said neighbor Rina Malmquist. "He just kind of zigzags back and forth, and he puts his earphones on with his iPod. That's his unwinding time."
Paul won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate with a libertarian-leaning platform that turned him into a champion of the tea party movement: Cut taxes but most of all cut government.
The 47-year-old eye surgeon also has been known to cut his own curly hair. He bought $12 golf shoes online, according to a golfing buddy.
Rob Porter knows Paul and his wife, Kelley. "They're both frugal. We've gone out to eat before and Kelley has used a coupon," Porter said.
Paul runs his own ophthalmology practice and drew a salary of $163,000 in 2009 and had rental income of nearly $100,000, according to his financial disclosure. Those earnings rank him among the wealthy in a state where the median household income is just under $42,000.
But there's more to Paul than his parsimonious side.
Another family friend, Greg Stivers, said Paul doesn't skimp on his wife or three sons, ages 17, 14 and 11.
The family lives in a gated community in this south-central Kentucky college town that Paul adopted as his hometown nearly 20 years ago. They attend a Presbyterian church and the boys went to a private Catholic grade school before enrolling in the public system for high school.
Paul belongs to a country club and the family has frolicked on Florida beaches and skied and snowboarded on mountains in Utah.
This is his first run for office, but friends say Paul — the son of longtime U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a former presidential candidate — has long been a political junkie with strong opinions who relishes dissecting issues.
"Most of our friends would say that Rand is doing what he's been wanting to do for quite a long time, and that's voicing his opinions about government and the need for less of it," said local physician Hugh Sims.
Malmquist said Paul's views on fiscal conservatism and limited government solidified long before the tea party emerged last year.
"He was tea party before tea party was cool," she said.
He's not a typical politician. At a tea party rally, Paul hovered near the stage before speaking, instead of wading into the big crowd to shake hands and make small talk with supporters.
Some might see it as an aloofness, but Stivers chalks it up to inexperience as a candidate.
"Rand is not a big backslapper and baby kisser," he said.
Paul faces Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in the November election to succeed GOP Sen. Jim Bunning, who is retiring after two terms.
Randal Paul was born in Pennsylvania, where his father was then an Air Force flight surgeon. He grew up in Lake Jackson, Texas, near Houston, as the third of five children born to Ron and Carol Paul. He was known as Randy then, and it was years later when Paul's wife started calling him Rand.
Jean McIver, a former longtime campaign aide to Ron Paul, said the Pauls taught their children some basic principles. "You work hard for what you get. Nobody gives it to you. Everybody is responsible for carrying their own weight," McIver said.
When the kids got into trouble, their mother was known to order the offender to write a paper — complete with footnotes, McIver said.
The parents didn't groom their children for politics, but when his father discussed his libertarian beliefs, Rand would "soak it up."
The younger Paul worked on his dad's campaigns and during his college years, he stood in for his father to debate political veteran Phil Gramm in a race for a Senate seat in Texas.
Paul attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas, for about three years but didn't receive a bachelor's degree. He left Baylor early in 1984 to attend medical school at Duke University, his father's alma mater.
Paul left few lasting footprints at Baylor, a Southern Baptist college, appearing only once in yearbooks. His nonconformity was beginning to show, though.
The student newspaper published a few of Paul's letters and columns espousing libertarian views against the Equal Rights Amendment advocate ("Equality? Since when have any two people ever been equal?") and environmentalists ("They fail to recognize the beauty of man's transformation of nature, the harnessing of nature's energy").
Paul also belonged to the NoZe (NOHZ) Brotherhood, a group of students who met secretly for fear of expulsion, according to another member, Marc Burckhardt, now an Austin-based illustrator. Conservatives had taken firm control of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Baylor policies were accordingly strict. Dancing was forbidden on campus until 1996.
"The brotherhood was a place for people who thought somewhat differently than the average person at the university thought," said Burckhardt, who graduated from Baylor in 1986. "If your thinking was at all out of step with Southern Baptist's doctrine at that time, then (NoZe) was the place for you."
Paul has been mum about the NoZe. Campaign manager Jesse Benton refused to say whether Paul was a member, offering only that Paul was active in the Young Conservatives of Texas and was on the Baylor swim team, a club team that competed against varsity swimmers from other schools in the former Southwest Conference.
Texas Republican Party Chairman Stephen Munisteri remembers Paul as an "very serious, intelligent" college kid active in the Young Conservatives.
"He was outgoing in that he stood up for what he thought," Munisteri said. "To me the thing that stands out about Paul is that he is an extremely principled fellow, and he has held these principles since he was a young fellow. He's a what-you-see-is-what-you-get guy."
He met his wife, Kentucky native Kelley Ashby, during his medical internship in Atlanta. They married in 1991 and settled in Bowling Green, near her hometown of Russellville, after he completed his medical training.
For 11 years, Paul practiced at Graves-Gilbert Clinic, the largest physician-owned clinic in south-central Kentucky. Dr. Jennifer Wentworth, his fellow ophthalmologist at the clinic, said Paul was known as a skilled doctor and surgeon with a bevy of loyal patients. Paul left the clinic in November 2007 to start his own practice.
Paul is seen by friends as fiercely competitive, especially on the golf course, where he's an average player on a good day and prefers to walk rather than ride in a cart, friends said. He enjoys reading, still swims and rides a bike for exercise.
Paul's political philosophy came to the forefront when he formed the Kentucky Taxpayers United group in the early 1990s. It gave Paul a forum to promote his views. The nonprofit watchdog group compiled scorecards grading Kentucky lawmakers for their votes on fiscal and tax issues.
Brett Gaspard, a longtime Paul friend and group spokesman, said Paul follows the same methodical approach to politics that he applies to medicine.
"He doesn't need notes, he doesn't need a TelePrompTer," Gaspard said. "For him, it's just a matter of principle. He doesn't have to decide what he's going to say."
Friends see Paul as unbending on core beliefs and willing to take on the establishment.
"He doesn't follow the crowd. He's comfortable saying things that people don't necessarily want to hear," Stivers said.
Malmquist describes the slightly built Paul as "a small guy with a strong personality."
Despite his quiet demeanor, he has shown a flair for grand gestures.
He arranged a surprise party for his wife's 40th birthday, Malmquist said. There was champagne, music and a poem that Paul wrote for his wife. The poem ended with Paul telling Kelley that they were headed to Florida for a sailing adventure, she said.
"As this was all unfolding, my husband leaned into me and he said, 'This is really cool but don't think I will ever be able to do this for you,'" Malmquist said.
Associated Press writers Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky., and Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth, Texas, contributed to this report.