Kentucky State Representative Charles Booker is one of 10 Democratic candidates competing to be the party nominee for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Mitch McConnell, who has seven challengers.
The state primary originally scheduled for May 19 has been rescheduled for June 23 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The general election is Nov. 3.
Booker has represented Kentucky's 43rd State House District, which covers part of Jefferson County, since January 2019.
During a campaign visit to Bowling Green, Booker stopped by the WKU Public Radio studio to talk with reporter Rhonda Miller. That conversation took place before the coronavirus required "social distancing" and drew much of the focus away from the state's primary election. This is one of a series of WKU Public Radio interviews with candidates in the Democratic primary.
Miller: Welcome Representative Booker.
Booker: Thank you. It's good to be with you.
Miller: What are the two or three main issues that you feel will convince Democratic voters to choose you in the primary?
Booker: Well, the big issue for me is the fact that, for so many Kentuckians, poverty is generational. What sets me apart in this race is yes, we all want to get rid of Mitch McConnell. But the bigger issue is, how do we win our future? I never thought I'd be in public service. I come from the west end of Louisville. I live in what has been the poorest zip code in the state. And growing up we never had a lot, but I knew it wasn't because we were deficient. And so my job now as a father, seeing the same struggles my Mom went through, passing poverty down, I'm trying to stop that so I don't give it to my daughters. And you know, my Mom without went without eating so I could eat. And Kentuckians know that story.
Miller: A lot of people in that situation have challenges, and it's difficult to overcome poverty. People now don't even have internet, some people. What do you think helped you overcome that and achieve what you have?
Booker: Well, I'm still trying to overcome it. I carry a lot of trauma. A lot of the issues that you see in Appalachia and parts of western Kentucky are very similar to the west end of Louisville. And that's important because we need to show how we're all in this together, lack of access to internet opportunities, food insecurity, working multiple jobs just to struggle. I'm a type one diabetic, I've had to ration my insulin. And going through all of those issues that I still carry the trauma. I've had cousins murdered the last four years. It gives me a vantage point that allows me to see Kentuckians and understand their challenges, their aspirations, their concerns and fears. And that's what we need in a leader right now.
Miller: There are several other candidates in the primary. I'm wondering where you position yourself.
Booker: You know, I believe we've got to flip all of that on its ear right now. Folks get in their political corners and they stop listening to one another. And so for me, when I say we need a Green New Deal, in fact, we need a Kentucky New Deal, because we need to lead on it. And we need Medicare for all, so no one has to die because they don't have money in their pocket. That's not partisan for me. And it's not left or right. It is doing right by the people you care about. We give all these monies, incentives, tax breaks for big corporations, while Kentuckians are struggling day in and day out, and we've had enough of that.
Miller: Do you favor Medicare for all?
Booker: Yeah, I fully support Medicare for all and the bigger conversation is that we need a structure in our health care where sickness is not the profit model. We need to get past this point of folks not being able to afford healthcare, not being able to afford their prescriptions. Like I said, I'm a type one diabetic, take two types of insulin, long acting, short acting, could easily be over $1,000 a month. We need a single payer system that makes sure that everybody has health care. Everybody can live a gainful life because you know what, when we do, they can work, they can be business owners, they can invest in our economy.
Miller: Do you feel like your message will resonate with conservative Kentuckians, which has been the dominant voice?
Booker: What I've seen, and again, coming from what many people would call the “hood,” is we live in silos, you know, and we really think that there are a lot of differences. But when we break those walls down and sit down and listen to one another, and hear each other and see our humanity, we always see how much we have in common. You know, me standing up to run for U.S. Senate is really the culmination of all the fights for fairness, equity, pushes against discrimination, pushes against structural racism, access to food, healthy food, and housing, access to economic justice. All these are things that I've been fighting for, for years, because I believe in them.
Miller: Representative Charles Booker, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Booker:Absolutely. Thank you.