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Monday, May 20, 2024

A few things to know about Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul, winner of the meaningless CPAC straw poll (Reuters)
Sen. Rand Paul (Reuters)

Sen. Rand Paul is set to join the 2016 presidential campaign on Tuesday. A snapshot of important things to know about the Kentucky Republican:


A first-time candidate for office in 2010, Paul rode the tea party wave to become one of the libertarian-leaning movement’s most vocal representatives in the U.S. Senate. His combative style won him few early allies and he often tangled with GOP leaders, including fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican. But he has started to learn the ways of Washington and adapt to them, and earned McConnell’s backing to run for the White House and re-election to the Senate at the same time. The quirky 52-year-old Paul will be able to tap into supporters who backed his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, during the Texas congressman’s presidential campaigns. But he hopes to reach far beyond that — and will need to if his bid is to lead to the Republican nomination.



Paul is an ophthalmologist, or a physician who specializes in medical and surgical needs of the eye. He has worked at clinics in southwest Kentucky, specializing in eye surgery, and helps to run a free clinic for his poor neighbors. In politics, Paul helped his father run against Texas Sen. Phil Gramm in 1984 and on his 1988 presidential campaign, and managed his father’s 1996 campaign to return to the House representing a Houston-area district. In Paul’s first campaign with his own name on the ballot, running for Senate in Kentucky in 2010, he toppled the establishment-favored choice in the GOP primary by an almost 2-to-1 margin and went on to win the general election by 12 percentage points.



Paul grew up near Houston, the son of an obstetrician father and mother who was a secretary, and was 15 when his father won election to the U.S. House in 1978. Rand Paul attended Baylor University, where he was an honors student, but left without a degree when he was accepted into Duke University’s School of Medicine. While on a surgical rotation at Georgia Baptist Hospital in Atlanta, he met his future wife, Kelley, at a picnic. The couple married in 1990 and moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to be closer to her family. Paul joined a medical practice before opening one of his own, and Kelley Paul is a freelance writer and political consultant. The couple is raising three children in Washington.



Paul took control of the Senate floor in 2013, embarking on an almost 13-hour-long speech to hold up the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. Brennan had been President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, and Paul opposed the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. “I will speak until I can no longer speak,” Paul said. “I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.” The episode drew unexpected admiration from liberals who share Paul’s concern about a snooping government operating outside the usual legal channels. No longer would Paul be considered purely a tea party conservative. Paul ended his filibuster when Attorney General Eric Holder assured him Obama would not target noncombatant Americans.



Paul has been a frequent visitor to the early nominating states and has lined up a raft of top strategists to guide him through the first paces of a campaign. In Iowa, he has recruited former state party chairman A.J. Spiker; in New Hampshire he has respected strategist Mike Biundo, who led former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign in 2012; in South Carolina, senior adviser Chris LaCivita will bring his decades of experience. Paul’s first stops after his campaign launch: New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Nevada.



Paul’s attempt to move from pure firebrand to more of a bridging figure is reflected in the titles of his three books as a senator. Chronicling his first year in the Senate, Paul published “The Tea Party Goes to Washington” in 2011 and followed up a year later with “Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused and Imprisoned by the Feds.” On May 26 of this year, Paul plans to release “Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America.”



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