Democrat Booker announces bid for Kentucky U.S. Senate seat

The 36-year-old rose to prominence last year as a candidate for Kentucky’s other Senate seat even though he lost the primary.

Updated: July 1, 2021 - 8:04pm

What had long been anticipated became official Thursday when former Kentucky State Rep. Charles Booker formally announced his candidacy for next year’s U.S. Senate race.

“Let’s make freedom ring,” the Louisville Democrat tweeted Thursday morning along with a video. “Real freedom, from the hood to the holler. We can start by taking our seat back from (U.S. Sen.) Rand Paul.”

Booker, who is Black, has scheduled an early afternoon event in Louisville to kick off his campaign.

The 36-year-old rose to prominence last year as a candidate for Kentucky’s other Senate seat. He was a considerable underdog to Amy McGrath for the Democratic nomination. However, his candidacy gained traction as demonstrators gathered in Louisville to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed as police officers tried to execute a search warrant.

McGrath, who had the support of national Democratic leaders, still won the primary, but only beat Booker by about 15,000 votes in a crowded race.

This time, it appears that Booker may have that national support. Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison retweeted Booker’s announcement, adding a note of congratulations to his “brother in ‘good trouble,’” a nod to a quote from the late Civil Rights pioneer and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

Booker will likely be the favorite in the Democratic primary, scheduled for next May. Currently, only one other candidate, Louisville educator Ruth Gao, has announced they’re running.

However, whoever makes it out of the primary will likely be a heavy underdog in a state that hasn’t voted a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Wendell Ford won his last term in 1994.

Paul, a two-term incumbent, will likely be the Republican nominee next year. Earlier this week, Paul told reporters at an event in Shelbyville that Booker’s stances will likely be polarizing to Kentucky voters.

“I just don’t think it’s going to be very popular to want to defund the police,” Paul said, according to WFPL-FM. “I don’t think most Kentuckians think that somehow infrastructure is reparations for slavery, or somehow Kentuckians think they need to pay reparations for slavery, I just don’t think that’s going to be very popular.”

Booker, though, is undaunted. He told The Courier-Journal he would “blow out” Paul, and that the key to winning was “redefining our politics.”

He made inroads on that during his campaign last year, visiting parts of rural eastern Kentucky and noting that region faces many of the same challenges as Louisville’s West End.

Booker also told the Courier-Journal that his campaign management team would include women who helped flip Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats last year.