Progressive Booker hints at midterm Senate bid vs. Rand Paul

Progressive Booker hints at midterm Senate bid vs. Rand Paul
© Courtesy Booker Campaign

Former Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination last year to take on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China MORE (R-Ky.), said on Monday that he is “strongly considering” a bid against Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 White House debates vaccines for air travel Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE (R-Ky.) next year.

“I am strongly considering a run for United States Senate in 2022,” Booker, who campaigned as a progressive in 2020, tweeted. “Good morning.”

Booker challenged Amy McGrath, the well-funded former Marine fighter pilot favored by Senate Democratic leadership, in last year’s Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky.

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McGrath ultimately won the nomination but by a smaller-than-expected 3-point margin. 

McConnell went on to win the November general election by nearly 20 points, crushing Democratic hopes of a close race in deep-red Kentucky. 

Paul, a two-term senator who rose to prominence within the Tea Party movement a decade ago, is facing reelection in 2022, though he is not considered particularly vulnerable.

Kentucky voters haven’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992, and both McConnell and former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE carried the state in last year’s elections by wide, double-digit margins.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the 2022 Kentucky Senate contest as “solid” Republican, suggesting that Democrats have little chance of flipping Paul’s seat, at least for the time being.

Still, Booker proved in last year’s primary that he is capable of competing statewide, even when facing better-funded rivals. Between January and June of last year, Booker’s primary campaign raked in less than $800,000  only a fraction of the more than $24 million raised by McGrath. 

He also picked up a handful of prominent endorsements, including one from Alison Lundergan Grimes, the former Kentucky secretary of state who challenged McConnell in 2014.