Rand Paul faces possible challenge, staff shake-up

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The shake-up was announced a week after a round of interviews in which Paul dismayed fellow Republicans with his views on racial segregation...

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Libertarian Party is considering running a candidate in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race, saying GOP nominee Rand Paul — the son of a former Libertarian presidential candidate — has betrayed the party’s values.

Party Vice Chairman Joshua Koch said Wednesday that Paul has been a black eye for Libertarians because of stands he’s taken on issues, including his criticism of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Koch said Paul is not a Libertarian. He called Paul and his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, “faces of the same bad coin.”

Rand Paul’s father was the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988. He is currently a Republican member of Congress from Texas. Rand Paul on Wednesday named one of his father’s former aides, Jesse Benton, as campaign manager, replacing David Adams who made campaign chairman in a reshuffling.

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The shake-up was announced a week after a round of interviews in which Paul dismayed fellow Republicans with his views on racial segregation. Paul suggested to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow last week that the federal government shouldn’t have the power to force restaurants to serve minorities if business owners don’t want to.

Koch had strong criticism for Paul, who won the Republican Senate nomination last week by trouncing the GOP establishment candidate, Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

“He had gone from being an outsider candidate to a tea party candidate to an establishment candidate in the past nine months,” Koch said. “It’s a complete identity crisis. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Libertarian Party doesn’t have a strong presence in Kentucky. But the race is being closely watched as Democrats seek to reclaim a seat that is being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, a 78-year-old former major league pitcher who opted not to seek a third term.

University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck said if the Senate race were to be close, a Libertarian candidate could potentially take enough votes from Paul to affect the outcome.

“A lot of the Libertarian candidates are people with little or no political experience,” she said. “They don’t speak well in public. They’re underfunded. But it would make a point.”

Who the Libertarian Party might put up to run in the race was unclear on Wednesday. The filing deadline is Aug. 10.

The Paul campaign said it wasn’t concerned about the development. “If someone wants to split up Kentucky’s non-conservative vote more than it already is, that’s OK with me,” campaign spokesman David Adams said.

Conway had no immediate comment.

Koch said Paul’s views on a variety of subjects differ from the Libertarian Party, including his promised support for any measures to ban abortion and his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“Trying to impose a national standard for that would throw the whole system out of balance, and that’s definitely not Libertarian,” Koch said.

Koch also said Paul is out of step with Libertarians in his unwillingness to call for U.S. troops to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The reason why we would even consider running somebody in this race is because we’re not going to let Rand determine what a Libertarian stands for,” he said. “I’m here to say Rand does not have the Libertarian ideology.”

Koch said the idea of fielding a candidate has been an ongoing discussion among Libertarian leaders in Kentucky and hasn’t been an issue of contention internally.

Libertarians typically side with Democrats on social issues and Republicans on fiscal issues. Because of that, a Libertarian candidacy would likely draw equally from both Paul and Conway, said University of Kentucky political scientist Stephen Voss.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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