Charles Booker touts abortion rights in Kentucky Senate bid

MOREHEAD, Ky. (AP)—Charles Booker political stock increased in Democratic circles two years ago as he expressed outrage over the deaths of black Americans in encounters with police, including in his hometown of Kentucky.

This emergence from obscurity gave the former black Louisville state legislator a springboard to challenge Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a nationally known former presidential candidate who is seeking a third term in ruby-red Kentucky. .

Seeking broader appeal beyond grassroots Democratic voters in a conservative state, Booker has now entered the fray over access to abortion in the Bluegrass State after the disappearance of Roe vs. Wade. The issue is at the forefront of the Nov. 8 election in Kentucky, when voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to state categorically that it does not protect the right to abortion. Abortion rights supporters hope to form a majority coalition against the amendment that includes independents and moderates from both major parties.

Campaigning, Booker is showing the same zeal for abortion rights that he did for social and economic justice issues in 2020, when he barely lost his party’s Senate primary – a performance surprisingly strong and a launching pad for securing the Democratic nomination this year.

And he uses the issue to challenge Paul’s deep-rooted national reputation as a champion of keeping government out of people’s lives, even as the senator has pledged to support legislation to end abortion. legal.

“I know how deeply personal it is,” said Booker, who grew up in a Pentecostal church, as he campaigned in Morehead on a statewide bus tour. “And I’m not here to tell anyone they’re wrong for their personal belief. It’s not my place. What I’m saying… is that government shouldn’t be in the business of imposing personal beliefs on others.

“I’m running against someone who calls themselves a libertarian,” he added. “It’s really ridiculous.”

Paul takes a strong stand against abortion, stating that life begins at conception and the government has a duty to protect the unborn child. He says the United States Supreme Court The Overthrow of Roe c. Wade in June was a “monumental step,” giving state legislatures the power to determine abortion policy.

In Kentucky, abortions are suspended except to save the life of a pregnant woman or to prevent a disabling injury. The near-total ban is being challenged in the state Supreme Court.

Booker said Republican lawmakers ‘overplayed their game’ by putting the measure on the ballot and supported President Joe Biden’s efforts to get the legislation drafted abortion protections in the law.

“I’m asking you, send me to Washington,” Booker said at another recent rally. “Let me be the vote to codify your right to privacy, your ability to make decisions about your body.”

Republicans mock Booker’s use of abortion as a rallying cry for his underfunded campaign.

“Is that his strategy? Interesting,” Kentucky Republican Party spokesman Sean Southard said. “I haven’t seen him do anything about campaign spending. Did he finally decide to broadcast a television commercial? »

Paul has generally overlooked his challenger, at least publicly, but he has tried to put Booker on the defensive on the issue of crime — a common GOP campaign theme this fall. Booker didn’t have the money to mount a TV ad campaign. It’s one of many obstacles for Booker in his bid to break through in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992.

Booker is the first major party black candidate for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky. He campaigns as a political outsider with a message aimed at a wide audience.

“Our obstacle is that we believe we can do it,” Booker said. “Of course, it can be hard to imagine that anything could be different, that things could change. Well, I’m not a typical politician and I tell you we are the change.

Booker’s bragging about themes of racial and economic justice in 2020 has coincided with protests erupting in Louisville and elsewhere over the deaths of Breonna Taylor in her hometown and other Black Americans elsewhere at meetings with the police.

Booker, who grew up poor in a west Louisville neighborhood, supports universal health care through Medicare for All, anti-poverty programs and changes in criminal justice. Under the slogan “from the hood to the scream”, he claims a kinship with poor rural white people facing similar economic struggles.

Republicans portrayed Booker as a “proud socialist” out of step with Kentucky voters. Paul, a staunch defender of the free market, rails against socialism, saying that “nothing in life is really free”.

“Expanding Medicare beyond its current remit of seniors 65 and older threatens to hasten Medicare’s insolvency and would hasten the day when Medicare will no longer have enough money to provide health care to seniors. “said Jake Cox, spokesman for Paul’s campaign.

Paul rode a wave of tea parties in 2010 for his first Senate election and ran for president in 2016, seeing his efforts to grab the mantle of overseas overshadowed by Donald Trump.

Booker’s supporters at his rally in Morehead, a college town in eastern Kentucky, said he offered an inclusive agenda for a state struggling with deep-rooted pockets of poverty.

“It’s clear he wants to make a difference and help everyone, and that’s not something we’ve seen in the past,” Connie Kibbey said as she waited for Booker to arrive at a Morehead bookstore.

Ann Colbert, a retired doctor from Morehead, said she loves Booker’s stands — especially her support for Medicare for All — so much that she helped circulate Booker’s street signs locally.

“I think that’s really the only way to take care of people fairly,” Colbert said.

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