(Story By Jeff Ledington, The Mountain Advocate)
State Representative Charles Booker of the 41st district is looking to win the Democrat nomination for the United States Senate. A lifelong resident of Louisville, Booker wants to take on Mitch McConnell, a man elected to office two weeks before he was born.
Booker represents a portion of Jefferson county that includes the state’s poorest zip code. The son of two ministers, Booker believes hard working Kentuckians need leaders that “see us, that listen to us.” Before being elected to the state house in 2018, he served as Director of Personnel and Administrative Services for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Booker has worked in every level of government; local, state and federal. He is the only candidate in the democratic primary that’s been elected to public office. Booker stated his main goal in running for office is “to end poverty.” He called out McConnell’s considerable wealth gain since being elected while “screwing Kentuckians.”
Booker pointed out that his home in West Louisville and Southeastern Kentucky have a lot in common. He brought up major job losses and a decline in industry as well as rampant poverty in both regions. “It’s critical that we lean in to that,” he said regarding what Kentuckians have in common. Booker added that in the years since McConnell was elected, Kentucky has largely been disenfranchised by the rest of the country. “When I see coal jobs leave Eastern Kentucky, I see the industries that have left my neighborhood,” he said.
On faith, Booker says “it’s central to me, it’s central to who I am as a legislature as a dad, as a Kentuckian.” He continued that faith helped him and his family through difficult times growing up and that they never let their heads down because of it. He stated that with belief, we can accomplish anything.
When asked what separates him form the competition, Booker was quick to point out his background. “I’ve lived, I’m living, the struggle a lot of politicians talk about; a lot of politicians pander about,” he stated. He continued that people like Mitch McConnell ignore those struggles all together. He also pointed out his status as the only democratic candidate to win an election and to work in public every level of public service. “I know specifically how government should work to better the lives of Kentuckians,” he said.
One of Booker’s biggest focuses if elected will be on healthcare. He pointed out that Kentucky is always near the bottom in studies on quality of life, a reason he supports Medicare for all. “We need to make sure everyone has quality healthcare,” he stated. He added that having quality healthcare not tied to employment would allow people to be gainfully employed and invest in their communities. A diabetic, Booker nearly died after having to ration insulin; an event that continues to drive him.
Booker is a supporter of the Green New Deal. He pointed out that solar expansion could be huge for the state and especially Eastern Kentucky. He believes the expanded infrastructure, such as broadband internet, will greatly benefit the region. He states on his campaign website, “Our leaders haven’t cared enough about our coal miners and coal communities to be honest with them about what the future holds, and to make sure they’re not left behind.”
Booker has been pushing for Universal Basic Income, UBI, for the last two years. “Our land and our labor has been exploited and we need an equity state in the future,” he stated regarding the movement of wealth from the state, particularly coal country. He continued that corporations are profiting off the data they collect on people, such as on Facebook, and that “we don’t get compensated for our information.” An equity stake in such profits is one way he says a UBI could be paid for.
When asked how to pay for policies like UBI and Medicare for all, Booker said “we’re already paying for it,” citing massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations that allow for record profits while wages stay stagnant. “We need tax reform,” he added stating it was too easy for the wealthiest people and corporations to pay little to no taxes. “We have a regressive tax structure that’s hurting a lot of Kentuckians like my family,” he continued. Booker stated that we have money for endless war and blank checks to bailout corporations, as well as to provide massive tax subsidies, “but when it comes to helping people, that’s when we ask how to pay for it.”
Booker says he respects that firearms are “sacred” for many Kentuckians. “I know for a fact the majority of Kentuckians are not looking at their firearm as a way to hurt anybody,” he said. He added that protecting our rights and keeping our families safe are not contrary to one another. “Being able to stand up for common sense gun safety is our way of saying we respect the second amendment, we respect Kentuckians rights by making sure they’re not being taken advantage of for political expedience,” Booker stated, adding he’s sided with law enforcement on gun legislation such as permitless concealed carry. Having lost five family members to gun violence, Booker supports universal background checks and would support funding the CDC to research gun violence.
“I’m not here to pander, I’m not here to tell you what you need to hear, I’m here to tell you the truth and lead with you,” Booker says. Booker says his campaign is not about Mitch McConnell, it’s about fighting for Kentuckians.