Progressive Democrat Charles Booker on Wednesday formally filed candidate paperwork to run against Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in Kentucky next year.
"We need leadership at the federal level that cares about our lives."
"I'm honored to take this stand for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I feel the weight of history on my shoulders, I feel my ancestors with me. I am proud to be a Kentuckian, we deserve this moment, this is for all of us," said Booker, who announced his campaign this summer.
"We're going to beat Rand Paul because this is bigger than him," Booker declared. "This is about the people of Kentucky, this is about the challenges that we are facing, that we are sick of being ignored and abandoned and left behind. We've seen poverty for too long, we've seen industries leave and never come back."
While recognizing Andy Beshear, Kentucky's Democratic governor, for "doing great work in the face of a lot of challenges," Booker charged that "we need leadership at the federal level that cares about our lives."
A former state representative, Booker gained national attention in 2020, when he narrowly lost a Democratic primary race against Amy McGrath, a party establishment-backed candidate who went on to be defeated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a year ago.
Booker has relationships with major progressive figures—including Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—and supports key policies such as the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and universal basic income.
The candidate's campaign website shares his story of enduring poverty throughout childhood, becoming the first in his family to graduate from law school, building a career in government, and founding the grassroots group Hood to the Holler.
"Charles is a lifelong resident of Louisville's West End, growing up in what has been one of the poorest zip codes in Kentucky," the site says. "He's been homeless, and Charles has had to ration his insulin because he couldn't afford the medication he needed as a Type 1 diabetic."
The Democrat said Wednesday that "I'm mounting a campaign that's focused on Kentuckians from the hood to the holler and everywhere in between based on our common bonds."
"This isn't about party, this is about the people," Booker continued. "We're going to win because of the truth—the truth is if we stand together, if we come together we can move mountains, we can do all things, and I'm proud to say that Kentucky's gonna tell a new story and send a young Black man from the hood to Washington to represent them."
Paul, first elected to the Senate as a Tea Party candidate in 2010, confirmed earlier this year that he plans to seek a third term. Over the past year, he has sparked criticism for challenging public health guidelines related to the Covid-19 pandemic, launching a transphobic attack on a federal nominee during a congressional hearing, and fighting to block the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for inciting a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol.
Booker shared how he is approaching campaigning for public office—especially in a state represented by Paul and McConnell:
You have to run races that speak to people, that meet them where they are, that are based on organizing, deep relational organizing. There are a lot of places in Kentucky that have been ignored for so long and those divisions are weaponized. Hate and racism is weaponized, and we disarm that by going to people, meeting them where they are, lifting up a vision that speaks to them on the ground and there's no substitute for organizing. We have to inspire folks, because a lot of people have checked out of the political process.
"People know that when I show up I really care about them and that transcends party," he said, "and we're gonna show what an organizing campaign unlike any other can look like in a place like Kentucky, and we will win."