Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky announced Wednesday he is suspending his presidential campaign, saying it’s been an “honor” to participate in the GOP primary race while pledging to continue to fight on in the U.S. Senate.
“Ours has been a unique voice in this race — one that says big government threatens Americans from all walks of life, rich and poor, black and white,” Mr. Paul said in a videotaped message. “From the coal miner who lost his job over President Obama’s destructive EPA regulations, to the teenager from a poor family facing jail time for marijuana.”
Mr. Paul had hoped to mobilize young voters during his 2016 bid for the White House, including in Iowa earlier this week. But he ended up finishing in fifth place in Iowa and was in danger of failing to qualify for the next Republican debate before the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary.
“I will continue to fight for criminal justice reform, for privacy and your Fourth Amendment rights. I will continue to champion due process over indefinite detention,” he said.
The Kentucky senator, first elected in 2010, attracted significant attention when he launched a nearly 13-hour filibuster in March 2013 demanding answers from then-Attorney Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. about the U.S. drone program.
His libertarian-leaning positions on issues like foreign policy and government surveillance had often put him at odds with some of his 2016 GOP rivals, but also enthralled much of the conservative grassroots. Last year, he won the presidential preference straw poll at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — a gathering typically populated by a sizable libertarian-leaning crowd — for the third straight year.
Mr. Paul said Wednesday his message had resonated with young people, and that he’s proud of the “principled campaign” he ran “and the thousands of young people that have been energized by our message of limited constitutional government.”
The senator also said he’ll continue to be a voice against out-of-control government spending and debt.
“I will not ignore the terrible cost of decades of war and chaos in the Middle East, and the unintended consequences of regime change and nation building,” Mr. Paul said. “I will never forget the thousands of American soldiers who have given their lives, and the thousands more who live every day with catastrophic injuries.”
“It has been a privilege to give voice to the liberty movement in this race and I believe we have broadened the debate by being part of it,” he said. “Although today I will suspend my campaign for the presidency, I will continue to fight on for liberty, for the Constitution, and for justice in the United States Senate.”
Mr. Paul had been simultaneously seeking re-election as he was running for president. Last August, Kentucky Republicans changed their nominating process for the presidential race from a primary to a caucus so that Mr. Paul could sidestep a rule preventing his name from appearing twice on the same ballot.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, a Democrat, filed last week to run against Mr. Paul.