Kentucky libertarians won't field U.S. Senate candidate against Paul

06/01/2010 06:40 PM

The Libertarian Party of Kentucky won’t recruit a candidate for this fall’s U.S. Senate race despite the discomfort some have with Republican candidate Rand Paul, according to one of the libertarians’ top officials.

“We had a discussion about running a candidate,” said K. Joshua Koch, the party’s vice chairman, in an interview with cn|2 Politics. “We’ve discussed it, and the cost involved and the lack of a winning candidate stepping forward means that we’re not going to be running someone against Rand Paul.”

K. Joshua Koch, vice chairman of the Libertarian Party of Kentucky

Koch said the cost he was referring to was the amount of time and volunteers needed to solicit the 5,000 signatures for a libertarian to get on Kentucky’s statewide ballot. (The party does have interested candidates in congressional races, which require 400 signatures). It is much easier to generate interest in a statewide libertarian candidate during a presidential election year than an off-year, he said.

Koch — who served as a spokesman for Kentucky supporters of Paul’s father Ron Paul during the 2008 presidential election — issued a press release last week in which the libertarian party distanced itself from the younger Paul, specifically over his highly-publicized comments regarding the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The Washington Post’s version of the Associated Press story about that strongly hinted that the party would find a candidate. The Post’s headline, “Paul faces possible challenge, staff shake-up” caused a mini-storm of criticism aimed at the libertarians, Koch said.

“We didn’t intend to cause this controversy and insert ourselves into a race where we don’t have a candidate,” he said.

Paul, a Bowling Green ophthalmologist, caused a national stir after winning the Republican nomination May 18 when he questioned a provision in the Civil Rights Act that says businesses can’t discriminate against customers because of race or ethnicity. Paul said while he abhorred racism and wouldn’t want to repeal the law he doesn’t like government telling private businesses how they should be run.

At it’s core, that is a libertarian philosophy of discouraging government regulation.

But Koch said it’s more nuanced than that. For instance, because governments created limited liability companies that come with a set of legal protections unavailable to individuals, government has, in effect, created a new game for which it can set rules.

And Koch said the Libertarian Party of Kentucky’s move to distance itself from Paul came after some GOP officials, including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, deflected questions about Paul’s comments by chalking it up to Paul’s libertarian tendencies.

“That’s putting the Republican Party in the position of trying to define my party as Rand Paul,” Koch said. “That was one of the misunderstandings.”

Paul has embraced some libertarian stances, while adopting more traditional conservative positions in other areas, such as opposing gay marriage and favoring a blanket ban on abortion.

Koch said the Libertarian Party won’t be endorsing in the race, which features Democrat Jack Conway, the attorney general, against Paul.

“I did send him a congratulatory e-mail,” Koch said of Paul’s win in the May 18 GOP primary. “I didn’t get a response.”

- Ryan Alessi

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