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By Rick Pearson, Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO—First-term Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday that lack of experience can sometimes be a good thing for people seeking top offices against “career politicians” who have become entrenched in the current political system.

“I was a physician, and then a U.S. senator, and people said, ‘You need to be a state legislator and a mayor and all of these other things before you’re in the U.S. senate’ and I absolutely disagree with that because I think in some ways, when you have people who are career politicians, they’ve been beaten down by the system and are so part of the system that they can’t see all the problems of the system,” Paul told reporters after speaking at a school choice forum in the Wicker Park neighborhood.

The comments came after last week’s remarks by Bob Dole, a former GOP presidential nominee and long-serving U.S. senator who belittled Paul and fellow Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) as “first termers.”

“I don’t think they’ve got enough experience yet,” Dole told the Eagle newspaper of Wichita, Kan.

While Paul said he was not responding directly to Dole, the Kentucky Republican said, “Maybe you can have too much (experience as well) in the sense that I think that over long periods of time, people lose their zeal for change in Washington and they become part of the system.”

Paul said he never criticized President Barack Obama, a first-term Illinois senator, for having a lack of experience to seek the White House.

Paul’s appearance at Josephinum Academy, a Catholic all-girl high school, was part of a two-day Midwest swing to tout school choice as a way to try to gain Republican support from traditional Democratic voters in the black and Latino communities.

“We have to figure out as Republicans how to get our message to the people who favor charter schools and choice in schools and say, ‘Look, we do care about your kids and frankly the other side cares more about the status quo than your kids.’”

During his talk, co-hosted by the conservative Illinois Policy Institute, Paul labeled the fight for school choice and publicly funded vouchers as between “dead enders and those who believe in education.” Afterward, Paul told reporters the “dead enders” included Democrats in Illinois and nationally, as well as teachers’ unions.

The Chicago Teachers Union and other educators’ unions have opposed many aspects of school choice, including charter schools and vouchers, contending they divert public tax dollars from public schools.

Paul also said he planned to meet with unnamed black community leaders about his push for “economic freedom zones”—a plan to reduce federal taxes in high unemployment areas to spur job growth. He unveiled the proposal late last year.

“If we were to allow my bill to pass, it would bring over $1 billion to Chicago. This would be Chicago bailing out Chicago,” said Paul, who added that it was another issue that should appeal to traditional Democratic minority constituencies.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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