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Kentucky GOP Leaders Want Funding Secured Before Acting On Paul's Caucus Request

Alix Mattingly

If Sen. Rand Paul wants a presidential caucus in Kentucky, state Republican Party leaders want to see the money to pay for it upfront.

Scott Lasley, chair of a special committee created by the Republican Party of Kentucky, said one of the latest conditions for approval of a state party rule change is that money for a caucus be secured before the GOP central committee decides the matter on Aug. 22.

Earlier this year, Paul asked state Republicans to consider a caucus instead of a primary in 2016.

The state's major political parties have traditionally held primary elections for president. But a state law prohibits candidates from appearing twice on a ballot. A presidential caucus would allow Paul to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate while also seeking home state support for his presidential campaign.

Paul's campaign has said it would fund the caucus, which Lasley expects to cost $500,000. But as the Kentucky GOP’s central committee mulls over a draft plan sent out last week, they want more assurances.

“The deal is that the money is supposed to be there,” Lasley said. “If it’s not there, I think there’s going to be problems.”

Kentucky's junior senator is running  far behind the frontrunners in presidential polls, averaging 4.5 percent in major national polls, according to Real Clear Politics. And his campaign has had some difficulty raising money.

When asked if Paul’s campaign still plans to pay for the caucus or is working to ensure the funding is secured within the next two weeks, a campaign spokesman declined to comment.

Lasley said the caucus should cost about $500,000, assuming most of the labor is carried out by volunteers.

“We are trying to make this process as lean as possible,” he said. “Part of the challenge that we face is the relatively short timeline to get this ready. We are trying to do about two or three years of work in four or five, six months.”

If approved, the caucus would be on Saturday, March 5. Candidates would need 5 percent of the vote to qualify for delegates.

Lasley, who is also a political science professor at Western Kentucky University, said the state's caucus plan has so far been modeled after the one in Kansas. He said Republicans would be able to vote throughout the day that Saturday, instead of at a particular time. Because it would be held on a weekend, turnout would likely be much higher than the typical Tuesday primary election day.

Kentucky’s proposed Republican caucus would also be one of the few to facilitate overseas and absentee voting, Lasley said.

“The two goals are to maximize participation of Kentucky Republicans, but also our goal is to maximize participation by candidates,” he said.

Besides funding, there are other issues to work out. For instance, as many as 10 counties in the state don’t have a chair or vice chair -- or both -- at any given time. That is among the concerns that the roughly 300 members of the central committee will be looking at this month.

Lasley said the goal is to have a location in every county, but where that’s not feasible, they are planning to have a regional caucus location, which could mean a long drive for some Republicans.

The central committee plans to vote on the plans during a meeting on Aug. 22 at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Frankfort.