LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul officially filed for re-election and for president in his home state Monday, a move he insists does not undermine his faltering presidential campaign.
Paul is the only major candidate running for president who is running for two public offices at once. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are not facing election bids in 2016 for their current jobs and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida decided not to seek re-election in favor of his presidential campaign.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Paul noted that he is not the first to file parallel candidacies in the same year, citing House Speaker Paul Ryan’s double candidacy in 2012 when he ran for re-election and as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential ticket-mate.
“A lot of people who support me want to have my voice on the national stage,” Paul said.
The move is complicated for Paul because of a Kentucky law barring candidates from appearing on the ballot twice in the same election. The state Republican party decided to hold its first-ever presidential caucus in March to avoid the conflict in its normal primary election in May. Paul raised $250,000 to cover the caucus’ cost. And on Monday, he is scheduled to pay the $15,000 filing fee to participate in the caucus.
Paul signed his paperwork in Louisville’s West End neighborhood, a poor area of Kentucky’s largest city. He highlighted his ideas for alleviating poverty by creating “economic freedom zones” where federal taxes would be slashed in poor areas of the country. And he blamed Republicans in part for the country’s poor financial state.
“I’m not afraid to say, ‘Look, sometimes Republicans have been part of the problem,” he said.
In the interview, Paul said he expects his home-state caucus to be “very competitive” because “there (are) 10 candidates running and all of them have attributes that will attract Republican voters.” Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz have already filed for Kentucky’s caucus. Paul said he is focusing most of his efforts on the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary and focusing on students, independent-minded voters and “the liberty movement within the GOP.”
Paul said his message of stopping the government from collecting personal phone records and decriminalizing minor marijuana offenses “resonates with the youth in a way that nobody else really on the Republican side is able to do.” And he said his policy that the United States does “not need to be involved in every civil war around the world” will attract independent-minded voters.
But his efforts to draw attention have been thwarted by political outsiders Trump and Carson.
“I think ultimately people will make decisions on more serious issues and less on flamboyance,” Paul said.
Lauren Passalacqua, spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Paul filing for both offices treats Kentucky voters “like a consolation prize.”
“His pursuit of his presidential ambitions will continue to hurt his re-election prospects,” she said.
But no viable Democrat has emerged to challenge Paul for his seat. Democrats are still struggling to regroup after losing the state’s race for governor earlier this month. Paul’s biggest potential challenger, state Auditor Adam Edelen, lost his re-election bid earlier this month and has said he will not run for the U.S. Senate.