LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – (AP) – Democrat Charles Booker launched another campaign for the US Senate on Thursday reiterating his “Hood to the Holler” theme in hopes of forging an urban-rural coalition who is powerful enough to oust Republican incumbent Rand Paul in Kentucky next year.
Booker, a former black state lawmaker, made his name in 2020 by announcing racial and economic justice issues that coincided with protests held in Louisville and elsewhere nationwide against the deaths of Breonna Taylor and other black Americans in encounters with the Police broke out.
Booker narrowly lost the Democratic primary to an establishment-backed rival who was beaten by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell in the general election in GOP-oriented Kentucky. Booker, who has served a tenure in the legislature, is promoting the same blatantly progressive agenda in his recent campaign against libertarian Paul.
“This is really going to be a conversation about the challenges facing the Kentuckers and how we are pushing for structural change so we can heal our Commonwealth,” Booker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
Booker officially started his candidacy in a social media announcement. Emphasizing his message of social and economic justice, he said, “We can mean freedom that every community across Kentucky thrives with well-paying union jobs. That we’re not just working to fight less, but that we own, we create, we build roads to prosperity throughout Kentucky. “
This time around, Booker starts with a broader profile and a more established fundraising network, the product of a late-swelling campaign in 2020 that nearly wrested the Democratic nomination from former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who received more financial support from national groups operating on rushing in search of McConnell.
But Booker enters the race as a staunch underdog against Paul seeking a third term for a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.
Booker, who grew up poor in a Louisville neighborhood, advocates Medicare for All, poverty reduction programs, a clean energy agenda, and changes in the criminal justice system. His brand slogan “from the hood to the holler” is based on the notion that poor rural whites face many of the same cross-generational economic challenges as he does.
By portraying Paul as contactless, Booker said, “He’s an ophthalmologist, but he doesn’t see us.”
“He treats Kentucky as his own stepping stone while making himself comfortable with his wealthy friends and these big companies that exploit us,” said Booker. “When we need guidance, he’s never there. And when he opens his mouth to talk … he embarrasses us. “
Paul, once a rival in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, became an ally of the former president. First elected to the Senate in the tea-party-driven wave of 2010, Paul railed against socialism and major government programs that he believes encroach on individual freedoms and drive up the nation’s debt. He advocates a more cautious foreign policy and is a frequent critic of development aid, which he considers wasteful.
Paul’s campaign had more than $ 3 million in the bank at the end of March. Booker employees say he raised more than $ 500,000 in the first few weeks after forming an exploratory committee in the spring.
Paul routinely reached out to the Black Kentuckians during his tenure in the Senate. He has made numerous visits to mostly black neighborhoods in Louisville to discuss criminal justice and poverty alleviation issues. Last year Paul spoke out against the use of search warrants without knocking and the militarization of police stations.
Blacks make up about 8% of Kentucky’s population, but Bluegrass state voters have elected two black candidates – both Republicans – to state-wide office in recent years. In 2019, Daniel Cameron was elected Attorney General of the state, and in 2015 Jenean Hampton was elected lieutenant governor on a ticket with former Governor Matt Bevin.
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