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Kentucky GOP okays switch to 2016 caucus to help U.S. Senator Rand Paul

Decision to change presidential selection process clears way for Paul to seek both re-election and the White House

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugBOWLING GREEN Kentucky (CFP) — Republican Party leaders in Kentucky have agreed to switch their presidential nominating contest in 2016 from a primary to a caucus, clearing a potential hurdle in U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s expected run for the GOP presidential nomination.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

After a closed-door meeting March 7, the state party’s executive committee approved the change, which must still be approved by the full party central committee in August.

Paul appeared at the executive committee meeting in Bowling Green to meet with party leaders and lobby for the change. His campaign has agreed to raise money to cover the costs associated with holding a caucus.

However, the proposed change was blasted by the Bluegrass State’s top elections official, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who said the switch to a caucus would introduce “chaos” into the process by disenfranchising voters who would not be able to attend.

“I call on the Republican Party of Kentucky to provide details on how all their voters would be able to participate and how the party intends to uphold the integrity of the process,” she said.

Paul has already kicked off his Senate re-election campaign and is expected to make a decision on the presidential race this spring.

Grimes, who ran unsuccessfully against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014, has been insisting that a state law prohibiting a candidate from appearing for two different offices on the same ballot precludes Paul from seeking re-election to the Senate while also running in the May 2016 presidential primary.

Kentucky Democrats, who control the state House and the governorship, have blocked efforts by Paul’s allies to change the state law against political double-dipping

The switch to a caucus, which would be held on a different day earlier in the year, would get around the problem, although if Paul were to win the GOP presidential nomination, he would face the same problem in the November 2016 general election.

Paul maintains the law is unconstitutional because of a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that a state can’t impose its own restrictions in races for federal offices. He has hinted that he may file a federal lawsuit if any attempt is made to keep him from seeking both offices.

A Bluegrass/Survey USA poll last September showed 66 percent of state voters and 54 percent of Republicans were opposed to changing the law.

There is historical precedent for running for both the presidency or vice presidency and Congress at the same time, most recently in 2012 when U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, was re-elected to his House seat in Wisconsin.

Vice President Joe Biden also won Senate re-election in 2008 on the same day he was elected vice president, as did Lyndon Johnson in 1960.

The only other senator up for re-election in 2016 considering a White House bid, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, has said he will give up his Senate seat if he pursues the Republican presidential nomination.

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