Kelley Ashby Paul is married to Rand Paul, junior Senator from Kentucky and candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Ashby Paul, 51, is considered to be a dominant force in her husband’s political thinking, described in . a Vogue profile as her husband’s “secret-weapon wife” and a “secret asset”.
Paul, an ophthalmologist by profession, first became widely known as the son of prominent libertarian Ron Paul. He himself is more widely associated with the Tea Party movement, championing mainstream Republican policies with some libertarian twists.
Here’s what you need to know about the woman who could be the next First Lady:
1. She Has Been Hesitant About the Possibility of ‘President Paul’
Kelley Paul told Vogue in 2013 that she was not yet fully convinced of the merits of a potential 2016 presidential run.
Citing the invasive nature of a campaign, she said, “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.”
Last August, in an interview with WKYU, a Kentucky public radio station, she said family privacy and dynamics were key to whether she wants her husband to run:
I would say so, that’s probably the main decision any family has to make, really. It’s not a typical job where you just go to work and do your job, there are huge demands on your time and, obviously, there are going to be a lot of people attacking you…and that’s part of it, that’s part of politics, but it’s on such a high scale when you’re running for President, so we’re thinking about it but not 100% there yet obviously.
In 2008, she said to the Russellville News Democrat Leader, “I never thought my father-in-law would run for president and get this much attention.”
Six years later, it is her husband who may be taking on that role, opening the door to scrutiny from all corners.
2. She & Her Husband Have 3 Sons
Paul was sworn in as Senator in January 2011, with his wife, three children, and Vice President Biden present.
She says she used the portrait from that day as a Christmas card that year, and said, “I got so much grief about that. It was just pure laziness on my part. I have three boys who hate to pose for pictures.”
The couple’s sons William, Duncan, and Robert Paul range in age from 14 to 20.
William, the eldest, was arrested at Charlotte-Douglas Airport in January 2013 and was charged with being intoxicated and disruptive. The charges were dismissed as part of a deferred prosecution program, and he performed community service and took alcohol education classes.
William Paul, a student at the University of Kentucky alongside his younger brother Duncan, was also cited in October 2013, for possession of alcohol by a minor at Keeneland racetrack in Lexington.
In her interview in August 2014 with WKYU, she talked about how her husband’s political career has impacted her sons:
…in a lot of ways it’s been really good for them, I mean they’ve had some really great experiences. Each one of our kids has gotten up on stage and given an introduction for their Dad and for their grandfather when he ran for President, so it’s exposed them to what’s involved in it and kind of raised their level of awareness about issues in the country, so in that way I think it’s been good for our kids.
They like to talk politics, they’re all involved at different levels. You know, my son, Duncan, he started the young Republicans club at Bowling Green High, so they’ve had a young Republicans club for the last two years that he started and my younger son, Robert, was in it. And William’s been involved with, like, Young Americans for Liberty and some of those groups on the campus of UK. It’s hard to be in our family and not be in politics a little bit.
3. She’s Paul’s Kentucky Connection
Though he is the Senator from Kentucky and the couple now lives in Bowling Green, Rand Paul was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Texas.
The then-Kelley Ashby was born in Russellville, Kentucky. Her parents, Hilton and Lilian Ashby, still live in the town, and Paul announced the launch of his Senatorial campaign from Russellville.
She said at a speaking engagement in Owensboro in 2010 that although Rand was not born in the state, “(she) got him here as soon as (she) could.”
4. Ted Cruz Was One of Her Clients When She Worked as a Political Consultant
Kelley Paul left her job in 2014 at the political consulting firm Strategy Group for Media, where one client she worked for was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of her husband’s key Republican rivals, in a move that many saw as clearing the way for Rand’s presidential run.
She told WKYU about her time working with Cruz:
Yes, that’s interesting isn’t it? During Rand’s campaign I worked very closely with our media firm and so for a while I did work for them and did some GOP media consulting and work on some of the initial advertising campaign for Ted when he was running in the primary in Texas.
With her own political experience, Kelley Paul has been described as Rand’s “secret weapon.”
Married for 23 years, the couple clearly balance each other well and make good partners. They often appeared together on campaign efforts during Ron Paul’s presidential run, and she was visible alongside her husband during his Senate run.
She said also talked to WKYU about her experience working with her husband on his speeches and books:
You know, I think that’s kind of one of the fun things. We’ll sit around in the evening and he’ll read speeches aloud to me and get feedback or I’ll try something, “I think you need to write something like this,” you know it’s a lot of back and forth. Rand’s a really good writer but, it’s interesting, he has more of a science background and he likes to write a lot of factual things so sometimes I try to help him bring a little more emotion into it.
Her quote in the Vogue profile about Bill Clinton saying, “I would say his behavior was predatory, offensive to women,” was widely picked up by other media outlets. Since then, Paul himself has also repeatedly gone on record to slam Clinton as a “sexual predator“.
Said in the context of Hillary Clinton’s potential run for the White House, it reveals a lot about who Paul sees as a future threat to his own plans. He posted a series of pictures after Election Night of Hillary Clinton with the failed candidates she had supported, dubbing them ‘#HillarysLosers.’
Now those on the outside are saying that her influence and image could be an important positive factor in the upcoming 2016 race he is rumored to be entering.
Ashby Paul is showing herself to be a key strategic partner, with her place on the board of the charity Helping a Hero making Paul’s non-interventionist leanings more palatable. Her planned collection of oral histories from strong women, including her grandmother, is useful to a party that is struggling to retain women.
5. She Wrote a Book That Will Be Released April 14
Rand Paul’s announcement coincides with the release of his wife’s first book, True and Constant Friends, which is set to be released April 14.
The book, which is being published by Hachette Book Group, is about the bonds of friendship that tied together her group of college friends. According to the Hachette website:
When Kelley Paul arrived on the Rhodes College campus in 1981, she immediately bonded with six women. Three decades of intimate friendship later, Kelley celebrates these relationships and the women who inspired them all. She tells their stories and those of their grandmothers, mothers and sisters, providing a microcosm of women raising families and building lives in 20th- and 21st-century America. The extraordinary lives of Kelley’s and her friends’ role models-from the Southern matriarch to the poor Irish immigrant-are honored in this lovely book which offers oral history along with classic poetry, art, and photography. Throughout, Kelley explores the universal themes of hardship, determination, commitment, family, independence, optimism, friendship and love-and illuminates the power of the female bond that enriches all our lives.
Emer Hughes contributed to this post.