As you may know, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has ambitions to run for President in 2016. While he hasn’t formally declared his intentions, it is virtually a lock that he will seek the GOP’s nomination. However, with a crowded Republican field and the likely formidable general election challenge of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Paul knows it is quite possible that he won’t be elected President in November 2016. With that thought in mind, and his Senate seat also coming up for reelection in 2016, Paul would very much like to be able to stay a Senator if his Presidential dreams don’t come true.
However, there is just one little problem–his home state of Kentucky does not allow a candidate to appear on two separate ballots in the same election. While this used to be a common law across the country, many states since 1960 have revised their state laws to allow politicians to run for reelection for a US Senate or House seat while also running for President or Vice-President. This is informally known as the ‘LBJ Law’, as Lyndon B. Johnson convinced the Texas legislature to amend the state law to allow him to run for his Senate seat at the same time he was the running mate to John F. Kennedy.
Rachel Maddow discussed this in detail on her show Thursday night. Below is video from the broadcast:
Since LBJ convinced Texas to allow him to run in both races at the same time, we’ve seen a handful of other candidates do the same thing. Lloyd Bentsen was a Senator up for reelection in 1988 and was the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee alongside Michael Dukakis. Democrat (at the time) Joe Lieberman was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 while also campaigning to hold on to his Senate seat in Connecticut. In the last Presidential election, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was allowed to run for his House seat at the same time he was Mitt Romney’s Veep choice. And, of course, current VP Joe Biden was given permission by Delaware to run for his Senate seat in 2008.
All of these sitting Congressional members’ states allowed them to do dual-duty and run on two ballots. For Paul, it seemed like a mere formality. He quietly asked the state’s legislature to revise the law in order to allow him to run for President and Senate at the same time. His interpretation is that the spirit of the law is to prevent a candidate from running for two statewide offices at the same time. It says nothing of national office, like for President or VP. In March, Kentucky’s GOP-controlled Senate passed a bill acquiescing to Paul’s request by a comfortable margin, 25-13.
Well, a funny thing happened along the way. The House, which is held by Democrats, decided not to play along. Now, they haven’t voted against it, per se. Instead, they just let the time run out in this legislative session. They may pass it when they return. Or, they might just allow it to sit there, forcing Paul to be more vocal about it, making his intentions more clear. At the very least, Kentucky Democrats, and especially Speaker Greg Stumbo, are delighting in their ability to make Paul squirm.
Stumbo had this to say when the bill was brought up in the Senate last month:
“We kind of take the position over here that a man (who) can’t decide which office he wants to run for isn’t fit to hold either office.”
This week, after allowing the bill to sit there without any action in the House, Stumbo jokingly said they still needed to read the bill. The bill, in its entirety, is only a paragraph long.
There is some delicious irony here. Paul, as his father before him, has always been a strong advocate for states’ rights. Essentially, as the protege of Tea Party godfather Ron Paul, Rand Paul has argued that the federal government is a tyrannical entity that has become far too intrusive and large. The bulk of all laws should be in the hands of local or state governments. Well, the fact is, the state of Kentucky’s law is that a candidate cannot run for two offices at the same time. And, as of now, it isn’t changing.