Charles Booker launches another Senate bid in Kentucky

Democrat Charles Booker launched another campaign for the U.S. Senate on Thursday, reprising his “hood to the holler” theme in hopes of forging an urban-rural coalition powerful enough to unseat Republican incumbent Rand Paul next year in Kentucky.

Booker, a Black former state lawmaker, rose to prominence in 2020 by touting racial and economic justice themes that coincided with protests that erupted in Louisville and elsewhere nationwide over the deaths of Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans in encounters with police.

Booker narrowly lost last year’s Democratic primary to an establishment-backed rival, who was trounced by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in the general election in GOP-leaning Kentucky. Booker, who served one term in the legislature, is promoting the same unabashedly progressive agenda in his latest campaign against the libertarian-leaning Paul.

“This really is going to be a conversation about the challenges Kentuckians are facing, and how we push for structural change so that we can heal our commonwealth,” Booker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Booker formally launched his candidacy in a social media announcement. He stressed his social and economic justice message, saying: “We can make freedom mean that every community across Kentucky is thriving with good-paying union jobs. That we’re not just working to struggle less, but that we’re owning, we’re creating, we’re building pathways to wealth all over Kentucky.”

This time, Booker starts with broader name recognition and a more established fundraising network, the product of a late-surging campaign in 2020 that nearly wrested the Democratic nomination away from former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who enjoyed more financial support from national groups looking to topple McConnell.

But Booker enters the race as a decided underdog against Paul, who is seeking a third term representing a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.

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