Democrat Charles Booker railed against Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul as a “barrier” to progress Monday night as he made a pitch to Kentucky voters in a solo appearance on statewide television.
Booker, a former state lawmaker, touted his plans to expand health care access, stoutly defended his support for abortion rights and said policymakers must deal with “climate chaos” that he linked to monster storms hitting Kentucky and other parts of the country.
With about a month left in the fall campaign, the Democratic challenger had the stage to himself during the half-hour candidate program on Kentucky Educational Television. Paul, who is seeking a third Senate term, was invited to debate Booker but did not participate.
Booker took advantage of monopolizing the time, saying Paul had “turned his back” on voters.
“He has voted against expanding health care,” Booker said. “He’s voted against infrastructure. He’s voted against local governments. He’s been our barrier and we need to remove him so that we can win our future.”
Booker, best known for his “hood to the holler” theme in hopes of forging an urban-rural coalition, said he’s built grassroots support from people who have been ignored, marginalized and abandoned.
“That’s not about party,” he said. “That’s about humanity.”
Booker also took on the issue of climate change in coal-producing Kentucky.
“These historic, unprecedented storms — having a 1,000-year flood that hit communities that were never in a flood plain — these things are not happenstance,” he said. “So we cannot look away from them, or call them a myth or a joke like Rand Paul would.”
Portions of eastern Kentucky were inundated by historic flooding this summer.
Kentucky hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in three decades. Tapping into the power of incumbency, Paul has amassed a lopsided fundraising advantage over Booker, and the GOP senator has dipped into his campaign treasury to air a series of TV ads touting his conservative credentials.
The top-of-the-ticket Senate race in Kentucky has at times seemed to be overshadowed by the state’s emerging 2023 governor’s race. Several Republican hopefuls are jockeying for advantage in what’s shaping up as an intensely competitive GOP gubernatorial primary next spring. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking a second term.