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Charles Booker, Gaining Momentum, Bets On An Upset In KY Senate Primary

charles booker
Bryan Woolston
Rep. Charles Booker on the floor of the House of Representatives in the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Feb. 19, 2020.

Louisville native and Kentucky State Representative Charles Booker likes his chances at upsetting Amy McGrath in the Kentucky Senate Democratic primary. Booker is coming off multiple major endorsements from the likes of former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the largest newspaper in Kentucky, the Louisville Courier-Journal. He’s repeatedly attacked McGrath as a "Trump-supporting Democrat," and is confident of his chances come June 23.

"While my opponents fight amongst themselves, we're building a coalition from Appalachia to the four rivers that are fired up because now they know that they have a candidate that will fight on the front lines for them, and beat Mitch McConnell in the process of doing it," Booker said.

However, Booker says that voting McConnell out of office isn't enough.

"This really isn't about him," Booker said. "We need to get rid of him so we can get onto the work of transforming our future."

Booker is a progressive Democrat, and has centered his campaign around fighting poverty. His policy platform supports Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, Universal Basic Income and expanding voting accessibility. Despite running in a red state as a progressive, Booker has seen lots of bipartisan support for his campaign, pitching himself as the anti-establishment candidate.

"I'm building a coalition ... Mitch McConnel wants to believe we're divided and to stoke that division and the Democratic establishment sees that narrative and assumes we can never stand together," Booker said. "I'm going to prove that folks that voted for Donald Trump, that voted for Bernie Sanders, that have never voted before, are going to lock arms to finally get Mitch McConnell out of there and then elect someone that is committed to ending poverty in Kentucky."

mitch mcconnell
Credit J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Mitch McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has been re-elected five times.

He takes from his own experiences with poverty and discrimination in fighting for change in Kentucky.

"So many of us across Kentucky know what poverty is about ... I tell them my own story of rationing insulin; my own story of being homeless; my own story of my mom going without eating so I could eat. People understand that even if we don't agree with every policy point, that they know I'm fighting for them," Booker said.

He also emphasized getting big money out of politics. His own campaign focuses on connecting to voters individually across the state instead of garnering support from wealthy donors.

"When you come from where I come from, and you're broke, nobody listens to you," he said."We're going to beat the big money model because we know what matters most."

As one of the most notable black politicians in the state, Booker has also taken a strong stance in supporting the protests in Louisville against police brutality following the death of Breonna Taylor in the city.

"The role of political leaders is to be on the front lines ... When people are crying out for justice and accountability, our leaders need to be there. This is not something I do out of political expediency, it's something I do for survival," Booker said. "I've marched in the streets a lot of times ... I've been in the streets since the protests began and I've been getting hit with tear gas myself because I know how important this moment is for us to show that we can stand together and transform our Commonwealth together."

He's also embracing his role as an underdog. While he trails behind in the fundraising race, raising fifty times less money than Amy McGrath has, Booker believes that his grassroots effort can drive voters to the ballot box.

"When you're a young black man in Kentucky, you're always seen as an underdog," Booker said. "We're ready to prove the establishment wrong, the status quo wrong, and all the national outsiders that thought that Kentucky wanted a pro-Trump Democrat. That's what we do, and we will win this primary."

Booker will face McGrath and eight other democratic opponents at the ballot box on June 23.