Kentucky state Sen. Charles Booker is the Democratic candidate running against GOP Sen. Rand Paul here in Kentucky this November, and Booker's new campaign ad is a hard strike against Paul.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker stands with a noose around his neck in a new campaign ad criticizing his opponent, Republican incumbent Rand Paul, for holding up legislation in 2020 that would have made lynching a federal hate crime in America.
The certain-to-be-controversial ad, which Booker's campaign released Wednesday morning, includes a content warning for "strong imagery."
It does not mention that Paul went on to co-sponsor a new (and bipartisan) version of that legislation. The Senate unanimously voted this March to pass the updated Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which is now law.
"The pain of our past persists to this day," Booker says in a voiceover as his ad begins, showing a historic lynching photo and a noose hanging from the limb of a tree. "In Kentucky, like many states throughout the South, lynching was a tool of terror. It was used to kill hopes for freedom.
"It was used to kill my ancestors," Booker says as he appears onscreen, standing next to a tree with a noose looped around his neck.
"Now, in a historic victory for our commonwealth, I have become the first Black Kentuckian to receive the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate."
"My opponent?" he says as an image of Paul appears. "The very person who compared expanded health care to slavery. The person who said he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act. The person who singlehandedly blocked an antilynching act from being federal law."
"The choice couldn't be clearer," Booker continues over the resounding creak of a rope, shown in close-up, before he appears onscreen with his hands gripping the noose. "Do we move forward together? Or do we let politicians like Rand Paul forever hold us back and drive us apart?
Now, having lived in this state for 16 years, I can tell you two things: One, that Booker is right about Rand Paul's history as Senator, and two, that doesn't change the fact that Kentucky is 88% white. The backlash on this ad is going to be incredible and nationalized. FOX is going to have a field day with this here for weeks, if not months.
This is going to be framed as the Worst Thing Black Democrats Have Ever Done™. Expect Black Republicans like Sen. Tim Scott and Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears dragged out to denounce Booker and demand he drop out of the race.
Oh, and part of me feels like Booker just put a target on the backs of every Black person here in the Commonwealth. He's still right about the state's history of lynching. He just threw it in the face of Rand Paul and white Kentucky. Booker needed to get national attention to change the trajectory of an assured double-digit loss.
But I don't know if this is going to help here. I really don't.