Kentucky Democrat wears noose in new ad attacking Rand Paul
The ad exemplifies Booker’s no-holds-barred approach to tackling issues of racial and economic justice in a predominantly rural, conservative state where only about 8% of the population is black. And it ignores Paul’s long outreach campaign in predominantly black neighborhoods to discuss criminal justice issues and ways to turn around economically struggling communities, improve schools and address gun violence.
The libertarian-leaning Paul will take on Booker in a November game in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992. The announcement shows that Booker, Kentucky’s first major black U.S. Senate candidate, will not hesitate to raise issues that may make some Kentuckians uncomfortable.
Booker’s announcement focuses on Paul’s efforts to block anti-lynching legislation in 2020. At the time, Paul said the legislation was drafted too broadly and could define minor assaults as lynching. Booker says this is an example of Paul embracing divisive politics.
But the ad contains a broader message aimed at “continuing assaults on humanity,” Booker said in an interview Wednesday, highlighting the mass shootings that haunt the country.
“The choice couldn’t be clearer,” Booker says in the ad, which debuted Wednesday. “Are we moving forward together? Or do we let politicians like Rand Paul forever hold us back and separate us?
Paul’s campaign said the senator has worked to strengthen anti-lynching legislation and that neglecting that role amounts to “desperate distortion of the facts.” In his own response, the senator said Thursday that he has made outreach to black communities a priority.
“I have introduced more than two dozen bipartisan criminal justice reform bills,” Paul said in a statement to The Associated Press. “I fought to pass a strong anti-lynching bill. To this day, I continue to work hand-in-hand with community leaders on issues such as violence and its effects on Louisville youth and their education and look forward to continuing these efforts when I am re-elected in November.
Booker’s announcement drew strong reactions.
Ricky L. Jones, professor and chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville, tweeted: “Some people call this ‘controversial’, even ‘disgusting’. I think this is one of the political advertisements the strongest I have ever seen!”
Lavel White, a community activist, documentary filmmaker and photographer from Louisville, said, “The African-American community is going to buy into it. They will understand it. They will say, ‘Charles is telling the truth.’ »
But Booker must avoid alienating some white voters who might question why he’s using a lynching-themed ad to attack Paul, White said. Booker adopted the theme of “roll over to howl” to promote his progressive agenda and show the common interests of inner-city and rural voters.
Booker first rose to statewide prominence in 2020 when he marched with protesters as a Senate candidate to demand justice for Breonna Taylor and other black people killed in police encounters. . His campaign surged, but he narrowly lost the Democratic primary that year to an establishment-backed opponent.
Booker regularly invokes his past to promote a policy, talking about rationing his insulin as he touts his plan to expand access to health care. In the new ad, he recounts how lynchings were “used to kill my ancestors” as he stood next to a tree with a noose around his neck.
He had great-great-great-uncles on his mother’s side of the family who were lynched, he told the AP.
“It was overwhelming putting that noose around my neck,” Booker said Wednesday. “I felt the weight of history when I did it. I imagined my uncles, you know. But I feel like being in this unique position gives me a responsibility, and it forces me to be vulnerable so that we can face hard truths.
Booker said he realized the announcement might cause “unease” to some Kentucky residents, but hoped they “could see my sincerity.”
The ad includes the eerie creak of a rope hanging from a tree branch. Booker’s hands grip the rope around his neck as he speaks, then he removes the noose and walks away. It’s a moment steeped in symbolism for people who are frustrated and desperate, he said.
“I want to tell the story that we can change things,” Booker said. “That we can get the healing and the brighter future we deserve, but it’s going to require us to stick together.”