EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story included the wrong word in a quote from Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker. Booker criticized Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as "getting bought off by big pharma," not big farmers. The story also misspelled McConnell's name. The Herald regrets the errors.
As the campaign trail for the Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate primary nears its end, state Rep. Charles Booker hosted a rally in Bowling Green on Thursday.
Booker sought to persuade the outdoor audience at the Garvin House that he is the Democratic candidate who can unseat Mitch McConnell in November. Amy McGrath and Mike Broihier are the other Democrats who are vying for McConnell’s Senate seat.
Up until a few weeks ago, McGrath was the front runner with more money raised, but recently Booker has received more attention and is now considered a serious candidate.
Upon entering the rally, participants were encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing. Water bottles, posters, and voting guides were laid out on a table for the audience.
Over 200 attendees were greeted by the singing of Civil Rights activist Charles Neblett.
Charles Booker referenced the death of Breonna Taylor early in his address to the crowd. Booker said that Taylor’s death has affected him personally because Taylor was a friend of his cousin.
“We can’t sit down right now,” Booker said. “We can’t be quiet. We can’t stay home because we know that if we stay home, our door can get kicked in and we can be killed in our home, even in our bed, by the agency that we pay for to protect and serve us.”
Booker said that his personal experiences shaped his current political beliefs. Coming from a big family, he learned about the importance of working together early on in his life.
“As frustrating as it was then because I had to share everything, it taught me to see the world outside of myself,” Booker said. “It taught me how to build a coalition.”
Because of the struggles he saw growing up, Booker felt like he could impact social change by running for public office.
Booker believes that voting should be a priority for Kentuckians. He said that Kentucky is one of the most disenfranchised states in the country.
“It has been hard to be heard in Kentucky for too long,” Booker said.
Booker said that he has had a tough time in Frankfort.
“A lot of things happened to make things harder for regular people,” said Booker. He further explained that Kentuckians have a lot to be proud about, but there is still a lot of work to do.
Booker’s political criticism doesn't end at the State Capitol. In his speech, Booker claimed that Kentucky’s senior U.S. senator has served as a “constant barrier to our progress”.
“You pick the issue,” Booker said. “There was always one essential fixture causing problems and it is Mitch McConnell.”
“While we ration insulin, he doesn’t want the prices to go down because he’s getting bought off by big pharma,” Booker said. “He doesn’t care.”
“You can pick the issue. I can tell you how he has made it harder for Kentuckians to just live another day,” Booker said. “He’s profiting from poverty. He’s profiting from our pain. He’s laughing to the bank, while we struggle.”
He said that the message is simple: we can’t simply focus on McConnell because it’s about the people.
“We gotta do this for us,” Booker said. "This moment has gotta be about us. We have to believe that this is our time. We have to get rid of him, so that we can do the work for us."
Booker said that the country has been paying attention to what’s going on in Kentucky, due to the recent protests around the state. He said that he is proud of Kentuckians who protest because they are letting the rest of the country know what Kentucky stands for.
He ended his speech with an assertion to the audience.
“We will win this race,” Booker said. “In fact we already have won right now. We are defying the odds right now. We are showing what is possible right now. We are redefining our future right now.”
Matt Jones, a host on Kentucky Sports Radio, told the audience why he is endorsing Booker in the primary. Jones said that he had never endorsed a local candidate in a primary before, but he is supporting Booker because he wants people to hear the Senate candidate’s voice.
He is also endorsed by Politico, Courier Journal, Herald-Leader, U.S. senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and state Sen. Gerald Neal and former Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
“We met at the same coffee shop and I said to him ‘change in politics, in government and in life comes from when a man and a moment meet’,” Jones said. “Well this is the moment and this is the man, with Charles Booker.”
Courtney Martin said that Booker speaks with a rare and authentic integrity that she has never seen before. She believes that the issues that Booker has committed to, such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, are something that people in Kentucky need.
“He actually cares and we haven’t had that in a long time,” Martin said. “Whenever people hear him speak, I know I feel moved and I believe in other people’s abilities to be moved as well.”
Rachael Fantasia said that seeing Booker in the streets was something she had never seen before. It was inspiring to her and made her feel feel like he is one of them.
“[He] defied all the odds that the government has portrayed,” Fantasia said. “The issues that he is bringing into the state [are] progressive and impactful.”