Can Charles Booker Change the Conversation for KY Democrats?

Charles Booker was a man in a moment during 2020, but some Democrats are hoping he can recapture that moment in an effort to change the electoral landscape in a state that has moved towards the policies of the GOP. 

By running an all-out progressive candidate, Booker’s team will be doing two things – leaning in on the tenants of the national Democratic Party and starting a new conversation with Kentuckians surrounding ideas.

It’s incredibly likely Booker will not win if he enters the race for U.S Senate in 2022, but what some are hoping he can do is be a pivot point to recraft the image and the talking points in Kentucky. 

Democrats running in Kentucky will have to carry the party banner of the national party, they often run into comparisons with Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer on the campaign trail – but it’s not happened often that the candidate actually runs their campaign on those same tenants. By doing so in 2022, Booker could shift the conversation away from social policies and move them towards economic policies. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell took decades to build the Republican Party into the dominant force in the commonwealth, now Democrats have to be just as strategic to reverse those gains. 

Booker has already begun hyping up universal basic income, a measure designed to return dollars to individuals to reduce poverty and reliance on social safety-net programs. Programs like these could be a hard sell to many Kentuckians, still, it’s the conversation that matters to many Democrats in the state that see the need to compete for votes not by being Republican-lite, but by Democrats and proposing Democratic solutions to Kentucky problems – like poverty. 

Obviously, this won’t be the only theme from Booker – he’s chalking up policy points every day online, but he will have to explain these ideas and begin forming the ability for others to follow in his footsteps. Booker will certainly run into themes calling him and the ideas socialist, and those running him will have to work overtime to prove their points and get to an understanding of his ideas. 

Others in the Democratic Party would like to see more a moderate Democrat running for U.S. Senate and move to actually win a high-stakes race. There are those calling on Rocky Adkins to run like the Herald Leader reported earlier this month. Jim Gray is also mentioned as making a second run against Rand Paul.

Either man would be interesting candidates to run in the 6th District Congressional race against Congressman Andy Barr, too. 

There’s also the money – a race from Booker could potentially be big dollars to national fundraising through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Running a moderate candidate would likely mean lots less money coming into Kentucky – as national Democrats are tired of moderates voting like Republicans in Congress. 

Whoever emerges in the 2022 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate will have a nearly impossible task in a state as red as Kentucky, but the discussions during the primary and the eventual General Election will provide guidance on a huge unanswered question – what happens if someone with a name id runs as an actual Democrat in Kentucky?

We’re about to find out.