Rep. Ron Paul (R)
Elected: 1996, 10th full term.
Born: Aug. 20, 1935, Pittsburgh, PA .
Education: Gettysburg Col., B.A. 1957, Duke U., M.D. 1961.
Family: Married (Carol); 5 children.
Military career: Flight surgeon, Air Force, 1963-68.
Elected office: U.S. House of Reps., 1976, 1978–84.
Professional Career: Practicing physician, 1968–96.
The congressman from the 14th District is Ron Paul, a Republican first elected to Congress more than three decades ago. He failed in his only attempt to win statewide office yet he gained celebrity status in 2008 in his second run for president.
|Ron Paul (R)||Unopposed||($2,735,129)|
|Ron Paul (R)||37,777||(70%)|
|Chris Peden (R)||15,859||(30%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (60%), 2004 (100%), 2002 (68%), 2000 (60%), 1998 (55%), 1996 (51%), 1982 (99%), 1980 (51%), 1978 (51%), 1976 (56%)
Paul grew up on dairy farm in western Pennsylvania, and, with his four brothers, started helping out with the chores when he was still a boy. When he got older, he had a newspaper route, and then a job as a dairy truck driver. He was a track standout in high school, winning a state championship in the 220-yard dash his junior year. Paul was also student body president. He got a science degree from Gettysburg College in 1957 and a medical degree from Duke University. He served as an Air Force flight surgeon in the 1960s, and then moved with his wife, Carol, to Texas to practice obstetrics and gynecology in Brazoria County. Paul recalls that he was dismayed when Republican President Richard Nixon cut the connection between the dollar and gold in 1971, and led to him becoming increasingly interested in politics, although he continued to practice medicine. In 1976, he won a special election by defeating Democratic state Rep. Bob Gammage. But when the congressional seat came up in the general election seven months later, Gammage defeated Paul by less than 300 votes. Two years later, Paul won the seat back from Gammage. Paul ran for the Senate in 1984 and lost the Republican primary to U.S. Rep. Phil Gramm 73%-16%. (His House seat was won by a young legislator and exterminating company owner, Tom DeLay, a Republican who rose to become one of the most powerful members of Congress until an ethics scandal drove him from office.) In 1988, Paul ran for president as a Libertarian candidate, finishing a distant third with 432,000 votes, 0.47% of the total.
Paul reentered electoral politics after Democratic U.S. Rep. Greg Laughlin switched to the Republican Party in June 1995. Laughlin had a moderate voting record, and Republicans offered him a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee to make the switch, and he did. Paul challenged him in 1996, raising money from a nationwide network of Libertarians, gold bugs and subscribers to the Ron Paul Political Report. Laughlin led in the primary with 43% of the vote, but Paul won the runoff 54%-46%. In the general election, Democrats ran Charles “Lefty” Morris, a former president of the state trial lawyers’ association. With the slogan “Lefty is right,” Morris hit Paul for favoring abolition of the minimum wage, repeal of federal anti-drug laws and anti-prostitution laws. Paul won 51%-48%.
In his first stint in the House, Paul had advanced some ideas that by the mid-1990s, when he was returning to Congress, had almost become mainstream: term limits and abolition of the income tax. Other Paul ideas remained outside the political norm. He endorsed a group that wanted to end all government funding of education, and he supported cutting $150 billion from the defense budget and returning to the gold standard. Paul practices what he preaches. He will not accept payment by Medicare or Medicaid, he wouldn’t let his children accept federal student loans and he refuses his congressional pension. He has written several books.
With his Libertarian views, Paul’s voting record has been anything but rock-solid Republican. National Journal ratings place him near the middle of the House. “Dr. No,” as he is called, never votes for legislation that in his view is not expressly authorized by the Constitution. Frequently, his insistence on limited government made Paul the House’s lone dissenter—against bills to require states to report on their progress in improving student achievement, to award Congressional Gold Medals to Rosa Parks and Pope John Paul II, to pass the USA Patriot Act after the September 11 attacks, and to spend money on homeland security. He favors relaxation of restrictions on illegal drugs, though he says that he has never even smoked a cigarette, and he filed a lawsuit challenging the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance act as a violation of the First Amendment. After his district in September 2005 was rocked by Hurricane Rita, he voted against hurricane relief. And then, without explanation, he voted against the September 2008 appropriation bill that included $23 billion in disaster aid for victims of Hurricane Ike (though he joined President Bush’s visit to Houston, where Bush promised federal aid after the storm).
Paul also opposed the constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, saying that the states should set such policy. He favors elimination of laws against gambling and guns, though he has rarely participated in either gambling or hunting. He deliberately delivers few spending bill earmarks to his district. Paul’s isolationist views on foreign policy made his voting record on those issues indistinct from many liberal Democrats. He was the only Republican to vote “present” on the resolution expressing support for the military forces at the start of the war with Iraq. In June 2005, he cosponsored with Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and others a resolution to withdraw from Iraq. In February 2007, he was one of 17 House Republicans who voted for the resolution opposing Bush’s troop surge in Iraq. Paul envisions virtually no role for the U.S. government overseas—from military defense to international trade. He calls himself a “non-interventionist,” not an isolationist. In a July 2003 speech in the House, which he called “Neo-Conned,” he harshly attacked the Bush administration. “The so-called conservative revolution of the past two decades has given us massive growth in government size, spending and regulation,” Paul said. His iconoclasm makes him probably the least dependable and persuadable Republican in the House and it explains why many liberals like him. And he does offer alternatives. He has been among the most prolific legislators, sponsoring dozens of bills and amendments each year. Typically, none pass.
Given his political isolation, his entry into the 2008 presidential campaign was not taken seriously. In March 2007, at age 71, he announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination with the slogan, “The Taxpayers’ Best Friend.” Paul drew widespread attention, and the ire of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, when he suggested during a May 2007 Republican debate that interventionist American foreign policy led to September 11. “They attack us because we’ve been over there,” he said. “We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.” Despite being dismissed by party professionals and most of the news media, Paul’s campaign generated grass-roots interest and online support—sometimes with an appeal that appeared to extend beyond the candidate. His bloggers and other Internet backers sometimes flooded the dominant political websites. “Effective immediately, new users may not shill for Ron Paul in any way, shape, form or fashion,” an editor for www.redstate.com wrote in October 2007. Paul raised $34 million, largely through the Internet, including a single-day fundraising record of $6 million in December 2007. He finished fifth in both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, though exit polls showed that he fared much better among young voters.
His well-organized and web-savvy supporters helped him to win many Internet polls, though that yielded scant impact on the official nominating contest. Nationwide, he received nearly 1.2 million Republican votes: 5.6% of the total cast. He won 12.3 % of the total caucus vote, running second in Louisiana, Montana and Nevada. Despite his plodding speeches and self-effacing style, his popularity continued even after his campaign sputtered. He got 16% in the Pennsylvania primary and he drew more than 1,000 people at a Louisville, Ky., rally after Republican candidate John McCain had wrapped up the nomination. In May 2008, his book The Revolution: A Manifesto was No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list. Republican convention organizers refused to permit him to speak because he would not endorse McCain. So he sponsored his own events in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where the GOP convention was held, including a loud counter-rally for more than 10,000 in Minneapolis. Paul briefly considered a third-party run in the fall, but instead he urged support for other third-party candidates.
Back home, the national campaign raised speculation that the renewed attention to his views could weaken him in seeking to return to Congress. He was challenged by Chris Peden, a Friendswood city councilman who raised $268,000 and campaigned as a conventional Republican. He criticized Paul for failing to pass legislation or to vote with his party in Congress. On the day that McCain clinched the nomination and Paul received only 4.9% of his home-state vote in the presidential primary, he won the primary for re-election to the House 70%-30%. Democrats ran no challenger in November.