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Kentucky GOP switches from presidential primary to caucus to help Rand Paul

Decision means Paul will be able to pursue the White House and re-election to the Senate simultaneously

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

kentucky mugFRANKFORT, Kentucky (CFP) — With U.S. Senator Rand Paul looking on, Kentucky’s Republican central committee voted to switch the presidential contest in the Bluegrass State from a May primary to a March caucus, clearing the way for Paul to run for the Senate and the White House at the same time.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

However, the central committee made the switch contingent on Paul contributing at least $250,000 to defray expenses associated with the caucus, something Paul has promised to do. The committee set a deadline of Sept. 18 for the payment to be made.

The vote, held by secret ballot, was 111-36, more than the two-thirds majority necessary to make the change. After the vote was announced, Paul’s supporters stood and cheered.

Paul release a statement saying “holding a caucus will ensure that Kentucky is relevant and participates early in the process.”

“I am also grateful for the Republican Party’s trust in me, allowing me to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate and seek the nomination for the presidency of the United States,” he said.

The change was necessary because Kentucky law does not allow the same candidate to appear on the ballot twice in the same election. If the Kentucky GOP held a primary, Paul would have faced a choice of whether to seek a second term in the Senate or opt out of a presidential primary contest he is likely to win. The caucus is also earlier in the presidential nominating calendar, which could boost his White House prospects.

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. While the change fixes Paul’s problem for the primary, he could still face the same issue in November 2016 if he wins the GOP presidential nomination.

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 had hinted that he would a federal lawsuit if any attempt is made to keep him from seeking both offices at the same time.

The switch to a caucus was criticized by the Bluegrass State’s top elections official, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who issued a statement saying “it is unfortunate that today a few insiders were able to disenfranchise over 1.2 million Republican voters.”

“One candidate should not be able to buy an election. Democracy demands that all eligible Kentuckians be a part of the election process. That didn’t happen today and won’t happen with a caucus.

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 running for president, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, is giving up his Senate seat.

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