7 Things to Know about Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Associated Press

1.) He may be a U.S. Senator, but Dr. Rand Paul hasn’t left his ophthalmology practice in Kentucky, continuing to perform eye procedures while not in Washington. From National Review:

‘Oh my God. Oh my God.”

Those are Cynthia Burke’s first words after Senator Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist, completes her eye surgery, removing the cataract in her right eye. Lying down in the operation room, Burke, a 55-year-old woman from the Ozarks town of Fredericktown, Mo., looks up. Standing above her are Paul and another ophthalmologist, Barbara Bowers, both dressed in blue scrubs.

Because of her cataracts, Burke hadn’t been able to perceive much color, and couldn’t see at all in her right eye when there wasn’t natural light. But now, with the surgery just completed, Burke’s sight is already hugely improved. “You have on blue clothes,” Burke marvels.

2.) Paul took to the Senate floor this last March for a nearly 13-hour filibuster, the ninth longest in history. From the Washington Post:

One of the oldest and most storied traditions of the Senate made a sudden return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday when a junior senator seized control of the chamber with an hours-long ­filibuster involving rambling speeches aimed at blocking a vote on President Obama’s choice to lead the CIA.

Led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) with help from other junior senators, the filibuster stretched nearly 13 hours — with the Senate adjourning at about 12:40 a.m. Thursday — and was aimed at drawing attention to deep concern on both sides of the aisle about the administration’s use of unmanned aerial drones in its fight against terrorists and whether the government would ever use them in the United States.

3.) At the age of 12, Rand Paul became the son of a congressman. His family lived just outside Houston, where he became acquainted with the libertarian ideology and campaign life. From the New Republic

In 1975, Rand became not only the son of a doctor, but the son of a congressman, too: Ron’s outrage with President Nixon’s decision to abandon the gold standard finally moved him to run for office as a Republican. (The GOP was then a minority party in Texas.) Rand was the most bookish and opinionated of the Paul kids and the only one to mention, unprompted, politics as a childhood pastime.

“Going campaigning, knocking door to door, hearing speeches, things like that, from about eleven on,” he said when I asked him about his adolescence. “I probably heard about several thousand speeches of my dad’s growing up, went to a lot of political barbecues, knocked on a lot of doors.”

4.) Relatively unknown in the country and, even, his state of Kentucky, Paul announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in May 2009 on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show. From New Republic:

Going into the Spring of 2009, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson was a favorite local son. That year, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader and the state’s political godfather, persuaded Senator Jim Bunning to make way for a more dynamic candidate and urged Grayson to run for the seat. Grayson seemed to be a lock for the Republican nomination—his main competition was an ophthalmologist in the western part of the state.

Grayson had heard that Ron Paul’s son was living in Bowling Green, but he’d never come across him in Kentucky’s political circles. “I don’t think many people thought of him as a serious candidate,” says Ronnie Ellis, a veteran Kentucky political observer. “He was treated by the press as an oddity.” After all, Paul had announced his candidacy on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” a bizarre move for a GOP primary.

5.) Senator Rand Paul is following the political footsteps of his father, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who served in the U.S. House for 23 years and ran for president on three occasions. Though his father drew a significant following of support across the country, his son is looking to expand it. From TIME Magazine:

…the party can't afford to ignore him. One reason is that Rand Paul is not his father. The libertarian agenda of Ron Paul's presidential bids drew a following as narrow as it was zealous. The younger Paul seems determined to broaden his father's base of perhaps 10% to 15% of the GOP electorate and is hunting for new recruits across the political spectrum. That means freshening up his dad's familiar message and downplaying hoary crusades like the gold standard and auditing the Federal Reserve. It means policy surprises, like his outline of a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. And it means a stage sense and media savvy his father lacked.

6.) Could Sen. Paul’s 2016 candidacy could already be unofficially underway? From New Republic:

When Paul launched his political career three years ago, he was viewed in much the same way as his father, or, as Senator John McCain once called him, a “wacko bird.” He was identified with the same marginal issues (drug legalization, neo-isolationism) and the same marginal constituencies (anarchists, goldbugs). But this year, Paul has emerged as a serious candidate. He has started actively campaigning for the nomination earlier than any of the other Republicans mulling a run. Already, he has racked up multiple meet-and-greets, dinners, and coffee gatherings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

7.) At the Conservative Political Action Conference this March, Rand Paul won the celebrated presidential straw poll among some of the GOP’s most dedicated supporters. The Paul name isn’t new to the victory column – Ron Paul won in 2010 and 2011. From National Journal:

Paul received 25 percent of the vote to Rubio’s 23 percent of the 2,930 people polled. The two were far ahead of the rest of the pack…

Paul’s victory comes on the heels of his 13-hour filibuster of CIA nominee John Brennan earlier this month, which raised his national profile and won him plaudits with many fellow Republicans and conservative activists. Young attendees at the conference flooded the halls sporting “Stand with Rand” buttons and posters, the catchphrase of the social-media movement that cheered Paul on during his hours on the Senate floor.