Booker’s announcement is a step before his candidacy was officially launched, but he has long been seen as a leading Democratic hopeful for the 2022 Kentucky Senate race. Forming an exploratory committee allows Booker to probe, travel around the state, make phone calls, and fundraise while testing the waters without officially declaring himself a candidate.
Despite Booker’s strong notoriety during last year’s Senate campaign, the former Louisville lawmaker would face a bitter fight against Paul in Republican-leaning Kentucky – a state that did not elect a Democrat to the Senate. since Wendell Ford in 1992.
Last year, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell beat well-funded Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, who narrowly beat Booker in the state’s Democratic primary.
Responding to Booker’s announcement on Monday, Paul spokesperson Kelsey Cooper said Kentuckians “know there is no greater defender of the values they hold dear than” Paul.
“And as President Trump said in his recent endorsement, Dr. Paul has a proven track record in fighting Washington’s liberal agenda,” she said.
Paul, an eye surgeon, will seek his third term in the Senate in 2022.
Booker gained momentum at the end of last year’s Democratic Senate primary with a “Hood to the Holler” campaign that highlighted the common interests of black Democrats in cities and middle-income whites and low in the mountains of eastern Kentucky – which he collectively defined as “people in forgotten places”.
He returned to these themes in his social media announcement on Monday. Booker referred to the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor at her home during a botched police raid in Louisville last year.
“When our sister’s door was broken down, we walked,” Booker said. “These choices have already changed Kentucky forever.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear last week signed a partial ban on strike ban warrants after months of protests sparked by Taylor’s death. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician in Louisville who is studying to be a nurse, was shot multiple times in March 2020 after being woken up from her bed by police. No drugs were found and the warrant was subsequently found to be faulty.
In its announcement, Booker also called for guaranteed quality health care for all and a Green New Deal in coal-producing Kentucky to “ensure a healthy planet for generations to come.”