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Bill tries to give Rand a hand

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Editorial: March 14, 2014

ISSUE: Senate Bill 205 clarifies election law
OUR VIEW: Beware of this unnecessary legislation

When it comes to politics, basic words can take on new meanings.

For example, many are referring to Rand Paul as the frontrunner in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. After he again won a straw poll at the recent conservative caucus event in Washington, Paul described the frontrunner designation as meaning “unlucky.”

Running ahead of the pack surely will attract more attacks once he formally announces. The leader quickly becomes the target — another redefinition.

In the meantime in Frankfort, state Sen. Damon Thayer wants to change Kentucky law to ensure that Paul’s likely presidential bid does not interfere with him also running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Thayer uses the word “clarify” to describe his tinkering.

Senate Bill 205 would allow any Kentuckian seeking a federal office to also appear on the same ballot in pursuit of another position. A committee substitute with revised language cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, passing a Senate committee.

Despite that progress, the bill seems destined for oblivion. Even if it passes in the state Senate where Thayer serves as majority leader, passage in the Democratic-controlled House is another story.

The bill was written with Paul and his political aspirations in mind. Any special circumstance adjustment to election laws almost always reeks of politics and should give all legislators reason to hesitate.

These special purpose favors often have unintended consequences.

This clarification — to borrow Thayer’s spin word — is designed to remove any question as to whether Paul’s name could appear twice on primary ballots in 2016.

As one of Paul’s senior advisers notes, it likely is unnecessary since the federal government determines what is allowed in national elections.

“Federal law governs federal elections and the Supreme Court has made it clear that states cannot impose additional qualifications beyond those in the Constitution,” Doug Stafford said. “We are not seeking to change the law, but rather to clarify that the Kentucky statute does not apply to federal elections. We thank Sen. Thayer for taking this step in clarifying this issue.”

What the bill will accomplish is allow Sen. Paul a chance to determine who among the Republican Party’s elected leaders is willing to look beyond his Tea Party ties and attach their fortunes to his rising star.

One notable flushed out by this bill was Kentucky’s senior senator, Mitch McConnell. Locked in a troublesome re-election bid this year, McConnell and some of his supporters took time to call state legislators on behalf of the bill and Paul.

Maybe he’s looking to borrow some of Paul’s momentum.

Paul and his aides say he’s committed to the Senate run. Although he has an officially sanctioned website, www.randpaul2016.com, and Facebook presence, no one publicly will say he is running for president.

Of course if he’s not running for two positions, Thayer’s bill could be redefined as totally unnecessary.

Just goes to show that the more you clarify in politics, the more cloudy the facts become.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.