TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Elections

March 19, 2014

Senate passes bill to allow Paul to run for 2 offices

CORBIN — By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service

Kentucky’s state Senate passed a bill Tuesday “to clarify” that Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul can simultaneously run for president and re-election to his Senate seat in 2016.

At least that’s the way Republican Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, sees it.

It looks differently to most Democrats, including Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, who called it “special legislation” to benefit one individual - Paul.

The bill picked up two Democratic votes in the Senate – Robin Webb of Grayson and Morgan McGarvey of Louisville. One Republican, Sen. Chris Girdler of Somerset, voted against the measure.

Webb said the bill represents “an expansion of democracy,” making it easier to challenge incumbents. McGarvey said he simply didn’t have a policy dispute with the idea. Girdler has repeatedly said he doesn’t think anyone should run for two offices at the same time.

Despite its easy passage in the Senate, the bill isn’t likely to go anywhere in the House where Democrats hold the majority. Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has repeatedly answered questions about the bill with the same response:  “A man who can’t decide which office he wants to run for ain’t fit to hold either office.”

Kentucky Revised Statute KRS 118.405 prohibits a candidate’s name from appearing for more than one office on the same ballot. Paul is considering running for president in 2016 but has said he also plans to run for re-election regardless of what he decides about a presidential run.

Thayer maintains the statute was never meant to apply to federal office and that state law can’t trump federal qualifications for federal offices. He notes that several national candidates have simultaneously run for congressional seats in other states, including present Vice President Joe Biden.

Thayer also says the bill is “bi-partisan” because it will apply to candidates from either party – but clearly the positions taken so far in the General Assembly are almost entirely partisan.  And Thayer makes no bones about wishing to help Paul.

This bill would help “one of our own (Paul) who’s considering a run for president,” Thayer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I don’t want to deny the people of Kentucky the opportunity to vote for one of their own.”

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said elections should provide two things: “order and certainty.” But if Paul or another were to win the presidential race while also winning re-election to the Senate, Thomas said, there would be neither. While the governor would appoint someone to serve two years of the Senate term, it would not be someone chosen by voters, Thomas said.

“That clearly frustrates the electoral process,” Thomas said. “The senator will be picked by one person.”

But in the end, the measure passed 25-13. While the House is almost certain to ignore the bill, both Thayer and Paul’s staff have talked about challenging the law in court.

But Republicans also hope to gain control of the House during the 2014 elections. Should that happen, the bill would almost certainly sail through the General Assembly in 2015.

The Senate also passed a bill sponsored by Webb that would require judgments won by the executive branch, including the Office of Attorney General, be returned to the General Fund to be appropriated by lawmakers.

The issue arose recently when Attorney General Jack Conway won a judgment against drug companies and as part of the settlement, money paid by the companies was directed to open substance abuse centers in Kentucky.

Lawmakers from both parties have said the settlement agreement was simply away around the law that such funds be returned to the General Fund. The bill passed 37-1. McGarvey, who once worked in Conway’s office, voted no.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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