Kentucky Politics

Kentucky Democrat Charles Booker says he’s forming an exploratory committee to weigh a second U.S. Senate race in 2022, this time against Republican incumbent Rand Paul.

“We have a chance to get rid of a horrible joke of a politician, and finally have someone in office that cares about our lives and will fight for us,” Booker told WFPL News Monday.

He slammed Paul for voting against federal relief funding and an anti-lynching bill. He said his platform would be focused on addressing poverty, structural racism and access to healthcare.

Booker’s progressive campaign came up just short in last year’s Democratic primary against Amy McGrath, who ultimately failed to unseat Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Booker said the results of that race have shown a need to “do things differently.”

“The political playbook that says that you don’t really take an issue…and just put a lot of money into ads…that is not our path forward,” he said.

McGrath’s well-financed candidacy aimed to appeal to moderates, as well as those on the left. But in attempting to thread that needle, her campaign alienated some progressives, especially those in urban centers who wanted her to take a stronger stance against police violence. At the same time, she did not gather enough rural support to unseat McConnell.

Booker, a Black former state representative from Louisville, would face an uphill challenge against Paul. The incumbent is a libertarian-leaning conservative ally of former President Donald Trump and has held his seat since 2011.

Booker said he is sticking with his “hood-to-the-holler” strategy of uniting low-income urban communities with struggling rural communities around common issues: poverty, health care access and environmental activism.

Many rural communities Booker seeks to bring into the fold voted overwhelmingly for Trump and other Republican candidates in 2020. But Booker still believes he can win them over.

“There’s some truth that Donald Trump lifted up,” he said. “He called out the fact that communities were getting left behind.

“Instead of using that as a weapon to cause fear and turn people against one another, we can tell that same truth and say that we can solve this together.”

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.