Who Is Rand Paul?
Born in Pennsylvania in 1963, Rand Paul became involved in politics in 1994, when he founded Kentucky Taxpayers United. He gained national attention when he campaigned for his father, Ron Paul, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. Rand Paul was elected a U.S. senator for Kentucky in 2010, making him the first senator to serve alongside a parent in the House of Representatives. Paul launched a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, but was reelected to the Senate in 2016.
Born Randal Howard Paul on January 7, 1963, Rand Paul is the third of five children born to Ron Paul—a U.S. Congressman and 2012 Republican presidential candidate—and his wife, Carol. Like his siblings, Paul was baptized and raised Episcopalian. In 1965, when he was still a toddler, the family moved from Pittsburgh to San Antonio, Texas, and eventually settled in the Texas town of Lake Jackson.
Paul attended Baylor University and then the Duke University Medical School, his father's alma mater. After receiving a medical degree in 1988, Paul pursued a general surgery internship at the Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta, Georgia. While there, he met Kentucky native Kelley Ashby. The couple dated for a couple of years and married in 1991, and when Paul finished his ophthalmology residency at Duke two years later, they moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky to start a family and Paul's medical practice. They soon had three sons, William, Duncan and Robert.
A longtime member of the service organization Lions Club International, Paul founded the Southern Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic, a nonprofit offering free eye care to patients in need, in 1995. He also performed free eye surgeries for impoverished children in developing countries through the Children of the Americas program.
Entry into Politics
A lifelong Republican with Libertarian leanings, Paul became involved in political causes in 1994, when he founded Kentucky Taxpayers United, a watchdog group tracking taxation and spending issues in the Kentucky state legislature, until it disbanded in 2000. Rand was inspired to become involved in politics, in part due to his father, Ron Paul, who was the first member of the Paul family to run for and win political office. His father served the state of Texas in the U.S. House on three separate occasions, beginning in 1976. Ron Paul became nationally famous by running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, after running twice in the presidential election as a Libertarian candidate. Though his candidacy was ultimately unsuccessful, Ron Paul's Libertarian platform attracted a small, but passionate, following. Rand occasionally filled in for his father on the campaign trail, offering populist speeches that echoed his dad's small-government beliefs.
In the wake of the September 2008 American economic crisis, Rand Paul became active in the Kentucky branch of the burgeoning, nationwide anti-tax movement known as the Tea Party. He began hinting that he might run for the seat of retiring Kentucky U.S. Senator Jim Bunning. On December 16, 2009—the 236th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party—Paul announced his intention to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He had never before sought political office. "If there's ever a year for an outsider who has never held office before, this is the year," Paul told the crowd gathered in Russellville, Kentucky. He ran on a platform that mixed traditional Libertarian issues, like reducing taxes and the size of government, with socially conservative policies like a federal ban on abortion.
In the Kentucky Republican primary, Paul was up against Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the protégé of powerful Senator Mitch McConnell. Though Grayson had been backed by McConnell and other Republican luminaries like former Vice President Dick Cheney, Paul's grassroots campaign attracted endorsements from such influential figures as Steve Forbes, Focus on the Family's James Dobson and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. On May 18, 2010, Paul won the primary in a resounding upset victory, defeating Grayson by 24 points.
Immediately after his win, Paul faced intense national criticism for current and past comments that critics viewed as ideologically radical. He was particularly criticized for his suggestion that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was too broad in scope and should not apply to business. He later clarified that he would have supported the act had he been in the Senate at that time, and then stepped out of the public spotlight for a while to repair the public damage, pulling out of scheduled appearances, including one on Meet the Press.
Serving as Senator
Paul faced Democratic Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway in the November 2010 general election and emerged victorious, becoming Kentucky's junior senator in January 2011. His victory was the first major win for a candidate so closely identified with the Tea Party.
Rand has focused on a range of issues since beginning his term in 2010, including reducing federal debt, cutting Social Security benefits and lifting restrictions to businesses created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A resolution introduced by Rand to overturn EPA-initiated power plant pollution rules was blocked in the Senate in November 2011.
In the spring of 2012, media speculation began to center around the possibility of Paul becoming the Republican pick as a running mate for former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In February 2012, he stated that he would be "honored" to be considered as Romney's vice president. In May 2012, Paul received some media backlash for stating at a Faith & Freedom event in Iowa that he wasn't sure that President Obama's marriage views "could get any gayer." He later added that he didn't mean to preach to citizens, he just wanted to voice his support for traditional marriage.
Paul again made headlines in 2013 with his nearly 13-hour-long filibuster speech in the Senate. Taking the floor, he spoke against the confirmation of John Brennan as the new head of the CIA. Paul also took this opportunity to voice his objections to President Barack Obama's policy of using unmanned drone strikes against terrorists. Brennan has been involved in helping to shape this policy as a counterterrorism advisor to the president. While he knew he couldn't stop Brennan's appointment to the CIA post, Paul hoped that his filibustering efforts would lead to greater debate on limiting the president's power to order such strikes. "No president has the right to say he is judge, jury and executioner," Paul said, according to CBS News.
In February 2014, Paul filed a lawsuit against President Obama and other government officials over the collection of phone metadata by the NSA, on the grounds that it violated the Fourth Amendment. Paul also sought to change U.S. foreign policy in early 2015 when he introduced a bill that would cut aid to the Palestinian Authority.
On April 7, 2015, the Kentucky senator announced on his website that he would be running for president in 2016. "I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government," Paul said.
After his announcement, Paul did a number of high-profile interviews with mixed results. He made headlines for his testy behavior during a Today Show interview with Savannah Guthrie. Paul seemed to scold the journalist over her questions to him during this exchange. He later explained on Meet the Press that he felt the need to "push back" after receiving what he saw a biased question, adding that he felt "some interviewers could be better sometimes and I think politicians could be more tolerant of interviewers."
Once Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president, Paul launched his attack on his possible Democratic opponent. He declared on Facebook that Clinton would be "a disaster" as president. Paul also positioned himself as being on the side of liberty, with Clinton standing for big government bureaucracy.
In February 2016, Paul ended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. He had failed to distinguish himself in a crowded field of candidates, including Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and a poor showing at the Iowa Caucus was the final straw. According to the Washington Post, Paul stated that his political career was far from over: "I will continue to carry the torch for Liberty in the United States Senate and I look forward to earning the privilege to represent the people of Kentucky for another term." On November 8, 2016, Paul was reelected to his Senate post.
In 2017, Paul made headlines for opposing attempts by Congress to quickly replace Obamacare, though he supported President Trump's executive order for new healthcare regulations in October.
The following month, the senator was assaulted by a neighbor outside his home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Although reports initially referred to "minor injuries," it was revealed that Paul had suffered five broken ribs and bruised lungs, with the scuffle reportedly stemming from a landscaping dispute between the two men. Still in pain, he was back to work in the Senate by mid-November.
In February 2018, Rand thrust himself to the forefront of partisan wrangling over a budget bill. Weeks after the government shut down for three days when Democrats and Republicans were unable to strike an agreement, Paul caused a shutdown all by himself, albeit one that lasted only a few hours.
The Kentucky senator took issue with agreements to raise spending caps, and subsequently stalled passage of a spending bill with a lengthy Senate speech. "The reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot," he said. "I want them to have to answer people at home who said, 'How come you were against President Obama’s deficits and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?'"
The government formally shut down when midnight of February 9 rolled in without a spending bill in place, but shortly after the time allotted for debate expired at 1 a.m., the Senate passed legislation, and the House followed suit at approximately 5:30 a.m.
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