State Republican Leaders Await Details on Possible Presidential Caucus

Jul 10, 2015

Credit paul.senate.gov

Republican leaders in Kentucky are still figuring out whether a presidential caucus next year is feasible.

A presidential caucus would have to be approved by the Republican Party of Kentucky’s full central committee.

The vote is expected at the end of August.

Before that, though, members need to see a plan for how this would work.

Scott Lasley, chair of a special committee created by the party that has been tasked with coming up with a blueprint for a caucus in 2016, said it’s not a sure thing yet that this idea will get approved.

“I think a lot of people are still waiting to hear some of the details in terms of what the process is going to look like and what it’s going to entail,” he said.

Among those Republican state leaders waiting for details is Jim Skaggs.

“The two things I am most concerned with is that we make it fair and accessible to all registered Republican voters and that the cost somehow is covered,” Skaggs said.

This whole effort is aimed at coming up with a system that would allow Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, to run for both president and his current seat in the U.S. Senate next year.

If it’s approved, the state party would have to foot the bill for a caucus. So far, Paul’s campaign has said they would help defray the costs if the caucus is approved.

There’s also the issue of getting county party chairs around the state to agree to this plan. County chairs would be in charge of carrying out the caucus.

“Some of this will probably be new ground for county chairs,” Lasley said. “The biggest concern is to make it as easy as possible for county chairs.”

Both Lasley and Skaggs say there is support among party leaders to figure this out, though.

For one, a caucus would make Kentucky stand out during the election.

“The primary argument for going to a caucus [is] to try to make ourselves more relevant in the process and increase participation from both Republicans voters in Kentucky, but also to be attractive for presidential candidates to come to Kentucky and campaign.” Lasley said.

Also, a caucus could possibly help get one of the state’s most prominent politicians in the White House.

“It’s very popular amongst the Republicans,” Skaggs said. “I think most of the republicans in Kentucky would love to have a republican president from Kentucky.”

The caucus would ultimately require a state rule change, which would have to be approved by the national party as well. Because they’d be throwing out the primary system, the national GOP has to sign off on how the state will pick and distribute its delegates. Lasley said that aspect “should not be a big problem.”

But that’s the easy part. The hard part is coming up with a plan and operating procedure for county chairs. Locations will have to be chosen, as well as the voting process.

One issue are “ranking ballots,” in which caucus participants rank candidates. Lasley said so far ranking ballots are not being considered, though voting experts have said could leave out overseas and military voters from some parts of the voting process. Lasley said he’s “cautiously optimistic” they will find a way to work that out.

A plan needs to be sent to the full central committee about a month before they meet to vote on it. County chairs and vice chairs make up about 80 percent of the committee.