Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Thursday that a state law preventing candidates from having their names appear more than once on the ballot won’t deter him from staging dual campaigns for Senate re-election and president – if he decides to run for the White House in 2016.
As for whether he’ll mount a presidential bid, that’s a weighty subject still being discussed by his family, Paul told The Associated Press.
“I would just say it’s probably not a conclusion yet, but it is something that’s an ongoing discussion,” the first-term Republican senator said.
Paul has indicated he will run for re-election to the Senate in two years. And he insisted Thursday that the Kentucky ballot law won’t be an obstacle if he decides to juggle simultaneous campaigns for the presidency and another Senate term.
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“We do think about it, but ultimately it’s not something that will probably deter the process, if we make a decision,” he said.
Kentucky lawmakers considered legislation this year that would have relieved Paul from the potential quandary. The GOP-led state Senate passed a bill that would have revised the ballot law so as not to apply to candidates running for president or vice president. The measure died in the Democratic-run House.
Paul’s camp maintains that states don’t have authority to restrict ballot access for federal elections. A Republican with considerable tea party support, Paul maintains that federal law governs federal elections.
Paul kept open the possibility of mounting a court challenge, if necessary, if he decides to have his name on the Kentucky ballot for both races.
“We haven’t really decided, but that is an option,” he said.
The ballot law has been on the books in Kentucky for decades. Lynn Zellen, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky secretary of state’s office, said she anticipated the office would seek guidance from the state attorney general’s office if a candidate tried to file for two offices on the same ballot.
If Paul ends up juggling dual campaigns, it would not be the first time a nationally prominent politician has done so in the same year.
Joe Biden was re-elected to the Senate in 2008 in Delaware and resigned to assume the vice presidency he won in the same election. Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman ran for re-election in 2000 while teaming with Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore as his running mate. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan did the same thing while running as Republican Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election.
Paul, the son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul, said those examples only strengthen his position.
“Can you really have equal application of federal law if someone like Paul Ryan or Joe Lieberman can run for two offices but in Kentucky you would be disallowed?” Paul said. “It seems like it might not be equal application of the law to do that. But that means involving a court, and I don’t think we’ve made a decision on that. I think the easier way is to clarify the law.”
In broader terms, for the GOP to retake the White House, it needs to expand the party to “look more like the rest of America,” Paul said.
“The Republican Party can’t win if they run the same type of candidate we have run,” he said. “It needs to be someone who can reach out beyond the party’s base to find new voters.”
Paul has made repeated visits to predominantly black neighborhoods in Louisville since winning his Senate seat. The local Republican Party is opening an office in those neighborhoods, a move applauded by Paul as part of an outreach effort to win over Democratic-leaning voting blocs.
“It could be significant,” he said. “I don’t set limits on what we can actually do, if we show up and if we have something to say.”