FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Legislation aimed at relieving Rand Paul from a potential quandary by allowing the Kentucky Republican to run for president and another U.S. Senate term at the same time was passed by the GOP-led Senate in his home state Tuesday.
The bill would clarify that Kentucky law preventing someone from running for multiple offices does not apply to candidates running for president or vice president. Paul is weighing whether to run for president in 2016 or focus solely on re-election to his Senate seat.
The measure passed the state Senate on a near party-line 25-13 vote.
Next up for the bill is the Democratic-led Kentucky House, where the proposal faces considerably longer odds. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has said that "a man that can't make up his mind which office he wants to run for ain't fit to hold either one."
Paul senior adviser Doug Stafford called the Senate vote a step forward in clarifying that Kentucky law does not apply to federal elections.
"We thank the Kentucky Senate for recognizing the need to clarify the law to avoid a conflict with the U.S. Constitution," he said. "Federal law governs federal elections, and the Supreme Court has made it clear that states cannot impose additional qualifications beyond those in the Constitution."
The Senate debate revolved around Paul's potential run for the White House in 2016. Paul has said he has not made any decision about running for president. Paul spokesman Dan Bayens has said that Paul is "100 percent committed" to running for re-election to the Senate in 2016.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said Tuesday it was Paul's rise to prominence that spurred introduction of the bill, though he said other Kentuckians could someday benefit if they, too, find themselves eying a run for national office.
"This is an exciting opportunity for Kentucky," said Thayer, R-Georgetown.
Thayer said the bill is modeled after a Wisconsin law that allowed U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to run for re-election while also running for vice president with Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. Thayer said Kentucky voters should have that same chance if Paul purses the presidency.
"I don't want to deny them the opportunity to have the chance to vote for or against one of their own, should he seek the office of president of the United States," Thayer said.
Sen. Ray Jones II, D-Pikeville, said a dual campaign of running for president and the Senate would distract Paul from his job as a senator.
"He needs to decide which one it's going to be," Jones said. "The people in Kentucky deserve a full-time United States senator."
Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, referred to the bill as "cynical opportunism of the highest order."
The legislation is Senate Bill 205.