Politics & Government

Like father, like son? Not always with Rand, Ron Paul

U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul.
U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul. Jonathan Palmer/Lexington Herald Leader/MCT

WASHINGTON — In the fledgling days of his primary campaign, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul's famous father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, helped the political newcomer gather donations from around the country and catapulted him into the national media spotlight.

However, political experts say Kentucky voters and national supporters hoping to get a carbon copy of the senior Paul, a libertarian standard-bearer, in the Senate are in for a surprise.

While the apple doesn't fall far from the tree when it comes to ideas of limited government oversight and the need to curb unemployment, federal subsidies and the national debt, the two Pauls differ greatly on such issues as term limits and budget earmarks.

Then there are their much-publicized differences on plans to build an Islamic community center several blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center in New York.

Ron Paul says the “demagoguery” from politicians and pundits critical of the plans “is all about hate and Islamaphobia.” Rand Paul opposes building the center and told a Kentucky television station that the nation’s Muslims should instead give money to a Sept. 11 memorial.

Still, such divisions may not make much difference to supporters come Election Day, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

“As we know from almost every state, having a family member in politics can be very helpful. You gain contacts, experience, you understand what the job is all about, campaigning. It’s like the family business,” Sabato said. “When he ran for president, Ron Paul was very popular with a segment of students. They are fiercely anti establishment and perfectly happy to accept Rand Paul.”

Here’s how the two Pauls stack up on several key issues:

The Civil Rights Act

The celebratory confetti from Rand Paul’s primary victory party in May had scarcely been swept away before the newest symbol of the Tea Party movement’s burgeoning influence found himself in a media maelstrom thanks to his comments on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show”.

He suggested to the liberal host that, based on his belief in limited government, private businesses shouldn’t be forced to abide by civil rights laws even though he personally abhors discrimination. After the uproar, Paul made clear that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and wouldn’t support its repeal.

Ron Paul expressed similar misgivings in 2004 during the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, saying that his position “has nothing to do with racism, it has to do with the Constitution and private property rights. Contrary to the claims of supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the act did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.”

Budget Earmarks

Father and son diverge on the topic of earmarks — congressional federal funding requests for projects in a lawmaker’s home district.

Rand Paul has vowed not to participate in the practice he considers wasteful — much to the chagrin of supporters of such federally-funded efforts as Operation UNITE, an anti-drug program that for years has benefited from Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers’ earmarking.

Last year, Ron Paul argued vociferously during a Fox News appearance in defense of earmarks as long as there is greater government transparency.


Both men have said they believe in eliminating the Department of Education and turning complete control over to local entities.


Both men hail from states with economies that depend heavily on the energy industry — coal in Kentucky and oil in Texas — and both are staunchly opposed to subsidies to and increased regulation of the energy industry.

Both support eliminating the U.S. Department of Energy. Rand Paul also has said he would “vote to cut taxes and lift regulations on companies developing new sources of energy”

Health care

As physicians, both the Pauls have spoken out passionately about health care, oppose the Obama administration-backed health care law passed earlier this year and feel that less federal regulation and increased opportunities for free market competition will encourage providers to lower costs.

Illegal Immigration

The two Pauls want to strengthen border security and staunchly oppose amnesty, welfare and taxpayer-sponsored medical care for illegal immigrants. They also oppose birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.

“We are the only country that I know of that allows people to come in illegally and have a baby and that baby becomes a citizen, and I think that should stop also,” Rand Paul told a Russian television station earlier this year.


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