It's official: Rand Paul is in the running for the Republican 2016 presidential candidate. Amid the buzz over Rand's announcement, the country has now affixed its gaze onto his wife, eager to learn everything there is to know about the woman he has called his "secret weapon." So just who is Rand Paul's wife, Kelley Ashby? You might be surprised to know that, though she buoys him with unwavering support and provides the perfect counterpoint to his fiery demeanor, she's not hankering to be first lady.
Rand announced his bid on Tuesday by updating the about section of his official website with a message that evokes his Tea Party roots: "I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government." The Kentucky senator, who is following in his father, Ron's, footsteps, joins Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as the GOP's official candidates for 2016.
As Rand builds his campaign, he'll continue to appeal to an eclectic mix made up of staunch libertarians, everyday Republicans, and younger constituents who he's been engaging through his passion for social and civil issues. But to truly round out that diverse appeal, he'll need the help of his wife, Kelley, whom many say makes the senator more likable. Here's what we know about Kelley, what she can do for Rand's campaign, and how she really feels about life at the White House.
Small-Town Girl With Big-City Savvy
Raised in Russellville, Kentucky, Kelley studied English at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. After graduating, she pursued a career in communications and worked as a freelance media writer, making her relatable with millennials.
Kelley eventually ventured into politics and served as a political consultant for Strategy Group for Media, where she worked on ad campaigns for Ted Cruz — whom, yes, is currently her husband's chief party rival.
Life With Rand
Kelley and Rand met at an oyster roast in 1989, when he was completing his surgery internship at the Georgia Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta. Kelley's date had bailed on her, leaving Rand an opening to swoop in at the party, where they proceeded to bond over Dostoyevsky. But Kelley wasn't so sure about the guy initially.
"I kind of blew him off a little bit because I thought he was about 18," she told Vogue in 2013 profile on the couple. But later on, after much wooing on his part, it was Kelley who gave Rand an ultimatum while wearing "a really killer outfit" during a surprise visit to his hospital's cafeteria.
Today, the couple have been married 24 years and have three sons: William, 21; Duncan, 18; and Robert, 15.
She's Not Sold On Being First Lady
In the Vogue profile from 2013, when Paul's campaign was barely nascent, Kelley was already wary of where it would lead. She told the magazine:
Because in this day and age it’s mostly about character assassination. When I think of the tens of millions of dollars in opposition research that they’d be aiming right at us and our family — that’s what it’s about.
In an October 2014 New Yorker profile, Kelley was described as the only potential obstacle to his campaign. Rand's top political adviser, Doug Stafford, told the magazine, "Unless Kelley says no, he’s running."
But She Steadfastly Supports Her Husband Nonetheless
After leaving the Strategy Group for Media, Kelley now helps her husband with communications strategy and collaborates with him on his speeches. As for her own PR pitch for Rand, she had nothing but praise for her husband, telling Vogue:
He’s very optimistic and thinks anything can happen and isn’t really afraid to take risks. And that’s great and exciting when you are in your 20s. But you realize how valuable that is with all of life’s ups and downs. Things happen; your kids get older, your parents get older; the older you get, the more challenges you are confronted with. And for me the thing that I have most loved and been grateful for in him as a husband is that he is always optimistic and doesn’t fall apart in a crisis.
Kelley also helps tremendously with his image, and not only because the svelte blonde is the picture of Southern charm. Because she and Rand are both devout Christians, her presence at appearances and speeches helps him appeal to the Christian demographic, who might want an outright Christian family unit in the White House. Kelley is also on the board of Helping a Hero, a charity organization that builds houses for wounded war veterans.
Rand Is Who He Is Because Of Kelley
Perhaps the single most significant contribution Kelley has made to her husband's life is his name. The Rand Paul that we know would actually be Randy Paul if he had never met his wife. According to The New Yorker, shortly after the two met, Kelley told him that Randy wasn't an appropriate name for an adult, so she nixed the "y." Her intuition might have been spot on. "Rand Paul for president" has a proper ring to it, but "Randy Paul"? Not so much.
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