That Rand Paul plans to run for president in 2016 is as obvious as it could possibly be, but he has a problem. His Senate term is also up in 2016 and Kentucky law prevents him from running for two seats simultaneously. They hoped the Republicans would take control of the Kentucky legislature this year and change the law, but that didn’t happen. What to do? Sue to overturn the law.
So Paul is left with a few options. Paul’s lawyers can file a lawsuit against the Kentucky law saying it’s unconstitutional.
“The basis of the lawsuit would be that the U.S. Constitution lists the qualifications for people to run for either U.S. House or Senate and they are either citizens of the United States, resident of the state, and for Senate 30 years of age,” University of Kentucky College of Law professor Josh Douglas told TPM. “So the argument here is that saying you can’t be a candidate for more than one federal office is an additional qualification so it violates the qualification clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
“There are several cases that say that a state has broad ability to dictate who appears on its ballot and also that there’s no fundamental right to be a candidate,” Douglas said, but warned that the argument, while it has merit, isn’t a “slam dunk.”Though the suit has yet to be filed, likely defendants of the state’s law would include the state Board of Elections and the Secretary of State’s office (currently held by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes), who have handled other election qualification lawsuits in the past.
There’s also another maneuver Paul could make. He could run in the presidential primary in all other states but Kentucky and then, if he got the nomination, resign his seat. Paul would also have to keep the Republican National Committee schedule in mind. The deadline for Senate candidates in Kentucky is six days before the Iowa caucuses, Jan. 26, though it may not be at all clear that Paul will be in or out of the running by then.
I don’t think he’s likely to win a lawsuit. Not filing for the Kentucky primary seems the most likely option, but it sacrifices what would likely be a fair number of delegates for him from his home state. He isn’t going to win the nomination anyway and I think he knows it, which is why he doesn’t want to give up his Senate seat.