Nov 10, 12:49 PM EST

Paul still faces ballot quandary in Kentucky



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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- The Republican tidal wave that swept Democrats out of office nationwide didn't solve U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's potential quandary in Kentucky, where the tea party favorite could become entangled in a state election law if he decides to run for president and another Senate term in 2016.

Legislation tweaking the once-obscure law to ensure Paul could appear on Kentucky's ballot running for both offices simultaneously easily passed the GOP-led Kentucky Senate this year. But it died across the Capitol in the House, where Democrats remain in charge.

This fall, Republicans seemingly had their best chance in decades to gain control of the House in a state where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular. Had Republicans consolidated their power in the legislature, it seemed almost certain they would deliver on Paul's request to change the law. But Democrats hung on to their majority, leaving the first-term senator and his supporters looking for other potential options.

State Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said there's a good chance the measure will come up again next year. The bill he introduced this year would have amended the election law to specify it doesn't apply to federal elections.

"Obstructing this could be a bad decision for them (Democrats) politically, to deny the opportunity for Kentuckians to vote for one of their own for president of the United States," said Thayer, a Georgetown Republican.

But House Speaker Greg Stumbo said his mind hasn't changed on the issue.

"Back home, we think a person who can't make up his or her mind about which office to run for isn't fit for either one," said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Democrats would like to see Paul have to give up his Senate seat in order to run for president.

Paul, the son of ex-U.S. Rep. and former presidential candidate Ron Paul, is huddling with political advisers in Washington this week to talk about his future. He confirmed he plans to seek re-election to the Senate even if he decides to seek a presidential bid. That decision could come in the spring.

"Whether I'm going to run for the (presidential) nomination or not, I think it's good for my party to be bigger," he told The Associated Press. "Even if all I do is run for re-election - which I plan on doing in Kentucky - I'm trying to make the party bigger in Kentucky."

Paul campaigned alongside dozens of Republican midterm candidates across the political spectrum ahead of last week's elections, earning good will in key states that could pay dividends as the 2016 presidential primary season begins.

Asked on Monday whether he could seek the presidency and his Senate re-election at the same time, senior adviser Doug Stafford said Paul "always had multiple options," but declined to be more specific.

A court challenge could be one option.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he thinks a legal challenge would have merit.

The state's current secretary of state, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has indicated she would seek guidance from the state attorney general or the courts if the election law isn't changed and a candidate files for multiple offices on the same ballot.

Grimes, who lost her bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, hasn't said whether she'll seek another term as secretary of state next year. A new secretary of state might support Paul's effort to run for both offices, which could prompt a lawsuit from Paul opponents.

Another option could be to turn the state's presidential primary into a caucus, which would require approval from the state Republican Party's central committee.

The current law says "no candidate's name shall appear on any voting machine or absentee ballot more than once," except for certain special elections. By switching to a caucus system, Paul might avoid violating those restrictions since most caucuses don't vote by paper ballot.

"If there is a caucus system for the Republican Party in Kentucky to select and allocate its delegates to the national convention, then it would preclude the necessity to have that race on a primary ballot," said state GOP Chairman Steve Robertson.

Associated Press reporter Steve Peoples contributed to this story from Washington.

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