LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul won his party’s nomination Tuesday to seek a third term, setting up a campaign of contrasting agendas that pits his vision of limited government against the challenger’s backing Democrat Charles Booker for the sweep of health care and anti-poverty programs.
The libertarian-leaning Paul swept to victory over five little-known Republican challengers in his primary. Booker, a former black state lawmaker, defeated three main opponents to become the latest candidate to try to break the Kentucky Democrats’ long losing streak in U.S. Senate races. Bluegrass State has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.
Paul immediately set the tone for his fall campaign, telling supporters in a video message that he was back in the nation’s capital “to fight socialists and petty bullies.” He did not mention Booker, instead directing his criticisms at the nation’s top Democrats – President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
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“Kentucky and all of America deserve better than the massive spending, runaway debt and crippling inflation that Biden, Pelosi and Schumer are giving us,” he said.
Booker, who is seeking to pave a new path to a Kentucky Senate seat, said in a tweet, “In November, we will make history by defeating Rand Paul and expanding our majority in the Senate.” Still, he faces a daunting task trying to overthrow Paul. Kentucky has turned decisively to the GOP, and Paul holds a significant fundraising advantage over his Democratic challenger.
Paul, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2016, gained a national voice by promoting a philosophy of limited government and restraint in American foreign policy. He is known to sometimes go his own way in the Senate. Paul last week defied leaders of both parties and single-handedly delayed Senate approval of an additional $40 billion to help Ukraine and its allies resist the invasion of China. Russia.
The senator’s libertarian leanings notably exposed what he saw as government overreach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul had high-profile clashes with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, over the federal government’s coronavirus policies and the origins of the virus that caused the global pandemic. He used these disputes to increase campaign contributions.
Booker won the nomination after narrowly failing his previous Senate bid. In 2020, his campaign gained momentum as his message of racial and economic justice coincided with nationwide protests over the deaths of black Americans in encounters with police. He barely lost the Senate primary that year to an establishment-backed rival who was routed by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell in the general election.
Returning with the same “hood to the holler” campaign theme, Booker was the early favorite in this year’s Democratic primary. He promotes social programs like Medicare for All and a universal basic income, saying it would uplift people stretching from poor urban neighborhoods and struggling Appalachian towns to other corners of the state.
Paul, a staunch advocate of the free market, views these social programs as an encroachment by an overly expansive federal government.
After years of cementing his image as a political outsider, Paul could be on the verge of gaining more influence in the Senate if he is eventually re-elected for another term. The senator says he is in line to assume committee chairmanship if the GOP wins control of the Senate after the November election. The Senate now has a 50-50 split, but Democrats have a slim advantage as Vice President Kamala Harris holds a deciding vote.
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