Rand Paul from seeking the presidency and his seat in Congress on the same Kentucky ballot in 2016 is unconstitutional, claim supporters who are girding for a fight over the law. Paul certainly wouldn’t be the first federal politician to run for the presidency and re-election to Congress at the same time. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Vice President Joe Biden, D-Del., former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and many others have done it. In Kentucky, though, state law says a candidate can’t appear on the same ballot twice. That would presumably be a problem for Paul, who has said he plans to seek re-election in 2016 regardless of what he decides about running for president the same year. Paul’s allies in Frankfort and Washington contend that Kentucky’s law contradicts the U.S. Constitution. They cite a 1995 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that nullified an Arkansas law that set congressional term limits and prevented a candidate from being on the ballot if he or she exceeded those limits.
“Such a state-imposed restriction is contrary to the ‘fundamental principle of our representative democracy,’ embodied in the Constitution, that ‘the people should choose whom they please to govern them,'” retired Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the majority opinion. That opinion clearly “invalidates” Kentucky’s law, said Doug Stafford, executive director of Rand PAC, Paul’s political action committee.
“It doesn’t seem like Kentucky could prohibit somebody from doing two different federal elections since federal law applies to federal elections,” Stafford said.
But Stafford and other Paul supporters anticipate a legal challenge if the state legislature doesn’t take action. “I’m sure, if it’s not clarified before then, that some partisan operative would attempt to challenge it,” Stafford said. “Which makes it all the more important for Kentucky to clarify it ahead of time.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, has drawn up legislation — “a one-sentence clarifier” — that would ensure that Paul has no problems.