By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul last week asked Republican state senators to try to repeal a Kentucky law that bars anyone from appearing on the same ballot for more than one office.
Paul is considering a run for president in 2016, but that is also the year he would be up for re-election to the Senate. While Paul has consistently said he hasn’t made up his mind about running for president, he’s also criticized the law which would prevent him from running for both offices in Kentucky. (Some other states allow candidates to seek both a state and federal office in the same year.)
Paul was in Frankfort last Wednesday to testify in favor of a measure to automatically restore voting rights for ex-felons who’ve completed their sentences. After testifying for the bill, Paul met privately with the Republican state senators and asked them to try to change the law.
Sen. Carroll Gibson, R-Leitchfield, said Paul discussed several items with the group, including both the restoration of voting rights measure and his desire to be able to run for both offices in 2016. Asked which topic consumed most of the discussion, Gibson said, “The latter,” referring to the ballot measure.
Dan Bayens, Paul’s statewide communications director, confirmed Paul discussed the problem with the senators, but he said Paul made it clear his first priority is to seek re-election as Kentucky’s senator.
“Rand committed to run for the Senate in 2016,” Bayens said. “Whatever else happens, he intends to be on the ballot for the Senate in Kentucky.”
Other than to say Paul has not made any decision about running for president, Bayens declined to address the ballot question.
Republican Caucus Chairman Dan Seum, R-Louisville, said the ballot question may have come up but, “From what I can recall, we talked more about restoring voting felon rights. But (Paul) is interested in that issue.”
Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, and Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, each said the ballot issue was discussed but no more than the voting rights question.
“It was just kind of a general discussion,” Higdon said. “Sort of, you know, if I run (for president) I’ve got a problem here.”
Givens said he doesn’t know how many Republican senators might favor changing the law.
“That’s going to be an interesting issue if it comes up,” Givens said. “We haven’t taken a poll of the caucus so I don’t know how it will go.”
At least one Republican senator isn’t keen on the idea.
“I personally believe our way of voting in the commonwealth of Kentucky has it right,” said Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset. “Whether it’s Paul Ryan or Joe Biden or Rand Paul, I do not believe someone should be eligible to run for two offices at the same time.”
Girdler referred to Wisconsin Sen. Paul Ryan who ran both for Vice President and the House of Representatives in 2012 and Joe Biden who did the same in 2008 in Delaware.
Even if the Republican-controlled Senate repealed the current prohibition against appearing twice on the same ballot in Kentucky, it’s unlikely the Democratic-controlled House would go along.
But Republicans think they have a shot at taking over the House in this year’s election. If they did, the GOP could change the law in the 2015 session, leaving Paul plenty of time to file for both races in 2016.
Otherwise, Paul would seem to have only two alternatives. He could challenge the existing law in court, or he could file for Senate in Kentucky while running for president in the other 49 states. Bayens declined to speculate about those possibilities.
U.S. Presidential elections are conducted under the Electoral College system and are in reality 50 separate elections. Candidates must meet the requirements for each state to appear on that state’s ballot.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.