Politics & Government

Rand Paul, Donald Trump and 9 others set to battle in Kentucky’s GOP caucuses

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks during a campaign stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Associated Press

The Republican Party of Kentucky announced Friday that 11 Republican presidential candidates paid their filing fee to appear on the ballot during the party’s March 5 caucuses to select a presidential nominee.

Kentucky junior U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who led the charge for the state to hold the unusual nominating contest, will be joined by all of the big names in the presidential race.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Paul all paid their $15,000 filing fee before the Jan. 7 filing deadline.

Mac Brown, chairman of the state party, said in a statement that Republicans will “have an unprecedented opportunity to influence the selection of our presidential nominee.”

“The early March 5 caucus date will give Kentuckians a voice before most other states, during a time when Republican candidates are actively competing for support from voters,” Brown said. “We are excited that 11 candidates will participate and we welcome their attention.”

How much attention the candidates show the state remains to be seen.

Presidential voting begins with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, and it’s far from clear how many candidates will still be running after the early nominating contests begin winnowing the field.

There is no mechanism for a candidate to remove his or her name from the Kentucky caucus ballot even though it’s unlikely the full field will still be in the hunt for the nomination.

Kentucky’s caucus comes after the traditional early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada go to the polls and just days after the so-called “SEC primary” occurs, when many Southern states, including Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Georgia, join Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Vermont in voting.

Kansas, Louisiana and Maine will all hold their nominating contests on the same day as Kentucky.

Registered Republicans will be able to vote at their local caucuses between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on caucus day, but only 111 of the state’s 120 counties will have caucus locations.

Republican voters in Carlisle, Knott, Trimble, Estill, Owsley, Harlan, Livingston, Morgan and Elliott counties will be able to participate at the caucus location in a neighboring county.

Paul sought the caucuses as a way to work around a state law preventing a candidate from appearing on the same ballot twice. He will seek re-election to his Senate seat during the state’s traditional May primary election.