Electoral Challenge To GOP Senator Rand Paul In Kentucky Ramps Up

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an ardent Trump supporter, is up for re-election in 2022, and he could be about to face his first challenger. Former Kentucky state Representative Charles Booker, a Democrat, announced over the weekend that he was “strongly considering” launching a campaign for Paul’s Senate seat, which the Senator won most recently in 2016 by some 15 percent against Democratic challenger Jim Gray, a former mayor of Lexington, Kentucky. Statewide Democratic victories, though, are not unheard of in Kentucky — the state’s current governor is Andy Beshear, a Democrat, although Republican Matt Bevin, who lost to Beshear, was particularly unpopular in a personal capacity.

Booker ran in the Democratic primary race for Mitch McConnell’s Senate seat in 2020, but Booker lost to veteran Amy McGrath, who herself eventually lost to McConnell by a considerable margin. During a weekend appearance on Kentucky Educational Television, Booker commented as follows:

‘I believe the work is not done, and we have the ability to tell a new story for Kentucky, and I want to do my part in that… There are struggles that I have experienced in the west end of Louisville that aren’t partisan — rationing my insulin, seeing my lights be cut off, not having a place to stay, seeing loved ones battle drug addiction and looking at jobs leaving our community and never coming back.’

Booker, who eventually reiterated his consideration of a run against Paul on Twitter, said on Kentucky Educational Television that he would decide whether or not to launch a campaign “really soon.” During his bid during the 2020 Democratic primary for McConnell’s seat, Booker ran on a progressive platform including tenets like support for universal healthcare and criminal justice reform. Booker ended up losing to McGrath by just under three percentage points, and he eventually endorsed McGrath’s general election candidacy.

Winning Paul’s Senate seat might be difficult — the most recent Democratic Senator from Kentucky left office in 1999 — but other currently GOP-held Senate seats could be even more sharply contested in 2022. Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey is retiring from his Senate seat — and Biden just won Pennsylvania in the 2020 presidential election. Pennsylvania’s other Senator is also already a Democrat. Besides Toomey, four other Senate Republicans — including Senators in Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Alabama — have announced their impending retirement and are not running again.