Sen. Rand Paul seeks 3rd term, faces Democrat Charles Booker

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s bid for a third term is before Kentucky voters, who are deciding between the conservative former presidential candidate and his rival from the other end of the political spectrum: progressive Democrat Charles Booker

Bruce Schreiner
Tuesday 08 November 2022 10:00 GMT

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian-leaning former presidential candidate, is bidding for a third term Tuesday against a rival from the opposite end of the political spectrum, progressive Democrat Charles Booker.

First elected in the tea party-driven wave of 2010, Paul is seeking to extend a long GOP winning streak in Kentucky Senate races. The Bluegrass State hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.

Booker is the first Black Kentuckian to secure the state’s Democratic nomination for the Senate and is in his second try for the post. In 2020, he barely lost the Democratic Senate primary to an establishment-backed rival who was routed by GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell in the general election.

In two Senate terms, Paul has gained a national bully pulpit while promoting limited government and restraint in U.S. foreign policy. One of the Senate’s most contrarian voices, he also has regularly denounced what he views as government overreach in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former state lawmaker, Booker promotes social programs such as Medicare for All and a basic universal income. He sought voter support in the campaign with his “hood to the holler” theme, vowing to uplift poor urban neighborhoods and rural communities alike — while also backing clean-energy and criminal justice reform.

With a commanding fundraising advantage, Paul ran a series of television ads this campaign touting his Senate record and conservative credentials. Booker relied mainly on social media and grassroots organizing in relentlessly attacking an incumbent who — at least publicly — paid him scant attention.

Between them, they offered starkly different approaches to politics in GOP-trending Kentucky. The outcome figured into the national count for determining which party would control the Senate for the rest of Democrat Joe Biden's term as president.

Paul, after a dozen years as senator, has regularly gone his own way, even putting himself at odds with his own party. The outspoken conservative rails against socialism, foreign aid and what he sees as excessive spending that he blames for driving up the nation's debt. He also denounced what he calls government overreach in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, repeatedly clashing with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert.

Paul also defied leaders of both parties this spring when he briefly delayed Senate approval of an additional $40 billion to help Ukraine withstand Russia’s invasion. Paul wanted language inserted that would have an inspector general scrutinize the new spending. Paul has voted against federal farm bills — vitally important for Kentucky’s agriculture sector — balking at the cost and its food aid sections.

It was Booker’s second bid for a Senate seat. In his first run in 2020, his racial and economic justice message garnered him attention amid nationwide protests over the deaths of Black Americans in encounters with police.

A pair of social media ads this year sparked controversy during the campaign.

Shortly before a TV debate that Paul declined to take part in, he released a video that claimed Booker “doesn’t believe in civil discourse, only violence” and falsely conflated an attack on Paul by a neighbor with violence during social protests, neither of which Booker had anything to do with. Paul had several ribs broken and eventually underwent lung surgery for injuries he suffered when his neighbor slammed into him outside his Kentucky home in 2017.

The video also accused Booker of associating with members of the “radical left” who it said condone and perpetrate violence. Booker responded that Paul was using “racially charged dog whistles” and said the ad had “dangerous and dishonest rhetoric.”

Earlier in the campaign, Booker had appeared in an online ad with a noose around his neck to draw attention to Paul's position on anti-lynching legislation. The ad zeroed in on Paul’s efforts to stall the legislation in 2020. At the time, Paul said the bill was drafted too broadly and could define minor assaults as lynching. The ad failed to mention that Paul co-sponsored a new version of the bill that cleared Congress and was signed into law by Biden.


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