A primary victory for Amy McGrath, the centrist Democrat running to challenge Republican Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, is no longer seen as a "foregone conclusion" in Kentucky as progressive state legislator Charles Booker picked up key endorsements on Tuesday and his campaign continues to gather steam ahead of the June 23 election.
Both Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced their endorsements just as Booker's first major ad campaign hit airwaves throughout Kentucky. The $400,000 ad buy comes after recent fundraising success for the state House member, who has raised about $100,000 per day since the beginning of June.
"A couple weeks ago [Booker] couldn't afford an ad buy. A couple weeks ago he couldn't afford a poll," strategist Matt Erwin told HuffPost. "But the last couple weeks have changed everything."
Ocasio-Cortez applauded Booker's "principled, inclusive, and winning coalition" and wrote on Twitter that "the U.S. Senate will be a better place with him in it."
Charles Booker (@Booker4KY) is running for Senate & building the kind of principled, inclusive, and winning coalition in Kentucky that can inspire positive change.
The US Senate will be a better place with him in it. I’m proud to endorse him.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 9, 2020
Bucking the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sanders sent an email to his supporters announcing his endorsement of six progressives running for U.S. House and Senate seats. Along with Booker, he announced his support for House candidates Samelys Lopez, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, Mike Siegel, and Cori Bush.
"As Louisville has become an epicenter of national tragedy and protests due to the police murders of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, Charles has shown leadership by showing up on the frontlines," Sanders wrote of Booker. "He was an endorser of our campaign for president and supports progressive policies such as criminal justice reform, Medicare for All, and getting big money out of politics."
"Here is the truth: if we want to build a political revolution to transform this country, it can't be up to one candidate, one campaign, or one election," Sanders added. "It is going to take all of us."
Along with Medicare for All, Booker supports the Green New Deal, student debt relief, and a universal basic income.
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Booker has labeled his primary opponent, Amy McGrath, a "pro-Trump Democrat" due to her promise to ensure Trump's 2016 campaign promises are passed by Congress. McGrath has argued as an appeal to voters that McConnell has stood in the way of Trump's agenda.
McGrath also suggested after announcing her campaign last July that she would have supported Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.
"Kentucky needs a real Democrat to take on Mitch McConnell," Booker says in his new ad campaign, describing himself as someone who will fight for working Kentuckians—"not help Trump just get his way."
Booker has also recently circulated an ad on social media criticizing McGrath for not marching alongside Kentucky voters at Black Lives Matter demonstrations since the killing of George Floyd.
I can’t speak for my opponent, but you will never have to ask where I stand. You know exactly where to find me.
Standing on the front line for Kentuckians. pic.twitter.com/cw6w87zOiD
— Charles Booker (@Booker4KY) June 4, 2020
Other recent key endorsements for Booker have come from popular Kentucky sportscaster Matt Jones, three members of the state Democratic leadership, and the Lexington Herald-Leader editorial board, which backed him on Tuesday.
The coronavirus pandemic, the corresponding economic crisis, and the current nationwide uprising over police brutality and racial injustice have made clear that while McGrath is "qualified and ready to serve...now is the time for bold and brave ideas," wrote the editorial board of the state's second-largest newspaper:
This moment in our fractious history seems to call beyond politics, and Charles Booker has risen to meet it in many different ways... He speaks eloquently about the similarities between his West End neighbors and residents of Eastern Kentucky, people who are often voiceless and left behind as more prosperous parts of Kentucky forge ahead... Charles Booker is the only one generating real excitement among young people and old. We believe he would move the state in the direction that Kentucky needs to go in the future so it can, at long last, move forward.
Booker called the new endorsements proof that he is offering "the right message at the right time."
"I am standing for Kentuckians, I am fighting for the Commonwealth I love, and the future I know we deserve," he said in a statement. "Kentucky is ready to lead, and the country is standing behind us. We will win this primary, beat Mitch McConnell, and transform our future."