In a move swiftly cheered by progressives, Kentucky Democrat Charles Booker announced in a video message on Monday that he was forming an exploratory committee to consider running against Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in 2022.
"As Kentuckians, we know about tough times. But over these last few years, we have truly been through a lot," said Booker in a statement. "It's been hard, but as Kentuckians, we stood up and showed up for our neighbors, finding ways to uplift and help each other however we could."
"But even in a historic, unprecedented public health and economic crisis, most of our politicians couldn't be bothered to do anything, voting against survival checks for working families and trying to take away our healthcare in order to give our money away to wealthy campaign donors," he continued.
According to Booker: "Kentuckians deserve a senator who will fight as hard for us as we fight for each other, and that's why I'm formally announcing an exploratory committee for U.S. Senate. We can, we will, and we must build a future that works for all of us instead of just for a wealthy few."
Kentuckians deserve a United States Senator who gives a damn about them.
— Charles Booker (@Booker4KY) April 12, 2021
A former member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, Booker gained national attention last year for a primary race he narrowly lost to establishment candidate Amy McGrath, who was soundly defeated by then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in November.
In the Monday statement, Booker's new committee celebrated his previous "insurgent" campaign as well as the progressive agenda and vision he ran on, including "healthcare for all, ambitious action to address the climate crisis, an end to generational poverty, and a visionary racial justice platform."
Booker reiterated that vision for Kentucky in the two-and-a-half minute video:
"I got chills watching this video," said U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.). "Last year, [Booker] inspired a nation. He can build the broad, multiracial coalition required to defeat Rand Paul in Kentucky. We need more candidates like him."
The video features footage of and headlines about Paul, a key figure in the Tea Party movement who was elected to his seat in 2010.
Faiz Shakir, an adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who managed his 2020 presidential campaign, said Monday that "defeating Rand Paul will not be easy, but it's a very worthy endeavor. And Charles Booker gives us the best [and] most inspiring shot at it."
Evan Weber, co-founder and political director of the Sunrise Movement, declared that "it's time to show the world that a New Southern Strategy is possible."
Last time, no one but the folks in Kentucky saw @Booker4KY coming.
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This time, the DNC chair uplifted him within hours of his exploratory launch.
It’s time to show the world that a New Southern Strategy is possible. From the hood to the holler.
— Evan Weber (@evanlweber) April 12, 2021
"Thank you everyone for the support. I'm grateful," Booker tweeted Monday about the reaction to his announcement. "I know Rand Paul is watching this movement. I know he's scared. He should be. He knows we can transform Kentucky."
"We will transform Kentucky," he vowed in the video. "And Rand Paul, you know it, too."
In an interview Monday with The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Booker also took aim at the senator:
"We have not seen a potential candidate like me challenge someone like Rand Paul in Kentucky's history," Booker said. "So, if anyone thinks that this is the same old, they are not paying attention."
Booker contrasted himself with Paul on the very nature of what was possible through government action, from infrastructure to healthcare.
"He's made it clear that he does not care what we're facing in Kentucky," Booker said. "He does not think the government should do anything. He doesn't think the government should provide relief, even when we're facing a pandemic, even when we're facing historic flooding and people are losing everything."
Booker, by contrast, described himself as someone dedicated to "lifting up the voices of people in the forgotten places."
"They say change isn't possible in a place like Kentucky. Well, we already proved them wrong. We showed them what's possible in Kentucky," he tweeted. "In 2022, we can shock the world."