Democrat Charles Booker launches Senate challenge against Rand Paul

Former state Rep. Charles Booker is jumping into the 2022 Senate race in Kentucky.

Booker, a progressive who came within striking distance of the Democratic Senate nomination in 2020, announced his latest campaign in a video posted online Thursday. His decision was first reported by HuffPost.

“As we go into this day where we celebrate our independence, let’s commit to making it mean something,” Booker says in his announcement video. “And I’m not just asking that of you. I’m going to lead by example. And it’s with that understanding that we have to lead ourselves that I’m going to run for United States Senate.”

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Booker is the first Democrat to launch a 2022 challenge to Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken Rand Paul: 'Hatred for Trump' blocking research into ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment Masks and vaccines: What price freedom? MORE (R-Ky.), a conservative firebrand who regularly draws the ire of the left. Only one other Democrat has received widespread mention as a potential Senate candidate, former state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins.

Paul is likely to prove difficult to beat. He was last reelected in 2016 by a nearly 15-point margin and has $3.1 million in his campaign account. Kentucky is also a reliably conservative state that has eluded Senate Democrats for more than two decades.

Democrats had hoped that a high-profile and well-funded bid last year by Marine veteran Amy McGrath would take out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell'Justice for J6' rally puts GOP in awkward spot Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally House to act on debt ceiling next week MORE (R-Ky.). But despite hopes of a close race, McConnell was reelected by a nearly 20-point margin, dashing Democratic hopes of an upset victory.

Booker, however, is betting that a more progressive message can push him to victory in 2022.

He ran against McGrath in the state’s 2020 Senate primary, benefiting from a late surge in support amid the national reckoning over race and law enforcement that followed the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers.

Booker’s primary bid was ultimately unsuccessful, though he came significantly closer to beating McGrath than many political observers expected, losing the nominating contest by fewer than 3 percentage points.

Updated at 9:16 a.m.