During a 20-minute speech in Louisville in his home state of Kentucky, the one-term U.S. senator formally declared he’s seeking the Republican nomination to become the next president as attendees chanted, “President Paul! President Paul!”
“To rescue a great country now adrift join me as together we seek a new vision for America,” Paul said. “Today, I announce with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America.”
Paul made no explicit mention of LGBT issues during his announcement. Instead, the candidate expressed his previously stated support for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, term limits for members of Congress and a requirement that lawmakers read each page of the bills on which they vote, no matter the length.
At one point during his speech, Paul held up an iPhone to declare that upon his taking office he would end warrantless monitoring by the Obama administration of the phone records of American citizens.
A significant portion of the announcement was geared toward encouraging support for racial minorities and urban communities in America. At least two black speakers delivered remarks to introduce Paul before he took the stage, and the candidate himself urged minorities to consider supporting his candidacy by saying “liberal policies have failed our inner cities.”
“Although I was born into the America that experiences and believes in opportunity, my trips to Detroit, to Appalachia, to Chicago have revealed what I call on undercurrent on unease,” Paul said. “It’s time for a new way, a way predicated on justice, opportunity and freedom. Those of us who have enjoyed the American Dream must break down the wall that separates us from the other America.”
Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said Paul has a “tremendous network of grassroots supporters,” including members of the LGBT community who hold libertarian views along the lines of these expressed by the Kentucky senator.
“The most refreshing thing about Sen. Paul’s speech was that it was so optimistic, so visionary,” Angelo said. “Rather than using the doldrums of the present as his launching pad, Sen. Paul focused on the promise of tomorrow — a tomorrow, at least as far as his speech was concerned, that did not focus on social issues one iota; the only constitutional amendment he mentioned was a Balanced Budget Amendment.”
The son of perennial Republican presidential candidate and former congressman Ron Paul, Paul has reputation for staking out positions often contrary to others in the Republican Party.
The Kentucky Republican filibustered on the Senate floor for almost 13 hours to express concerns about the administration’s use of drones to kill terrorist suspects, but announced he supported President Obama’s decision to re-establish U.S. relations with Cuba and called for criminal justice reform after the events in Ferguson.
Paul stands in contrast to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the only other major Republican candidate in the race for the White House. Cruz announced his bid for the White House at Liberty University, a Christian school that has a reputation for anti-LGBT views, and has made opposition to same-sex marriage a major component of his political career. Cruz was one of 57 congressional Republicans to sign a friend-of-the-court urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold state bans on same-sex marriage; Paul isn’t a signer.
But in recent months, Paul in preparation for his presidential bid has cozied up to the religious right. In a recent interview on Fox News, he said affording same-sex couples the distinction of marriage “offends myself and a lot of other people.” Like many other Republicans, Paul has yet to take a position on the controversial Indiana religious freedom law.
In the most recent congressional scorecard from the Human Rights Campaign, Paul obtained a scored of “20” out of possible 100. The Kentucky Republican lost points for voting against both cloture and final passage for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in addition to opposing same-sex marriage, but received a small boost for casting a “no” vote against an amendment that would have stripped the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization of its LGBT protection.
JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s vice president for policy and political affairs, said the first order of business for Paul should be coming out against the controversial Indiana religious law that Gov. Mike Pence signed late last month.
“Given that he has opposed ENDA, which would give LGBT workers express protection against discrimination in the workplace, Rand Paul needs to join the rest of the candidates and say whether he agrees that Mike Pence did the right thing when he signed a bill in Indiana that put LGBT Hoosiers at risk for discrimination,” Winterhof said.
But as far as Paul is concerned, the focus of his candidacy will be to remove the power that special interests have influenced over the federal government in Washington and a “return to government restrained by the Constitution.”
“We’ve come to take our country back from the special interests that use Washington as their personal piggybank, the special interests that are more concerned with their personal welfare than the general welfare,” Paul said. “The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedom and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped.”