The old cliche goes: Timing is everything in politics.
But, it’s cliche for good reason.
When my dad, John Yarmuth, ran for Congress in 2006, he was the right candidate for the time. President George W. Bush was dragging the country through a scandalous second term, including two unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a failed response to save the citizens of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
He’s often remarked how the stars aligned for him just to enter the race, much less defeat a 10-year incumbent. Now, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, he’s running for his seventh term. He was the right candidate at the right time.
Today, we’re in the middle of a once-in-every-two generations social movement, on top of a global pandemic, and Charles Booker is the candidate Kentucky needs to replace Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate. He is the right candidate at the right time.
Let me be clear, what makes Charles the right choice in this election is not that he is a Black man during a national movement against systemic racism and police brutality against Black people. It’s because Charles’ life experience has equipped him to understand, empathize with and fight for the struggling class.
Charles was born in The West End of Louisville, but he says the issues facing the hood are the same facing the holler: “I’ve been called the ‘urban’ candidate in this U.S. Senate race. Divisive rhetoric isn’t new. We must all lock arms. From the mountains to the farmland. From the hood to holler. We’re standing to fight for our future.”
Growing up, he and his family relied on food stamps and free-lunch programs. He is diabetic and struggled to afford insulin, leading to rationing. He graduated from Male High School and worked his way through UofL law school.
Yet, now, he is struggling with the same student debt crisis that millions of others are fighting to overcome.
I’ve known Charles for years, beginning with his time working on some of the early Yarmuth for Congress campaigns as manager of field operations and volunteers. And he has always been about public service.
I was honored to be one of several speakers when Charles announced his campaign for state representative in 2018. Standing before a diverse but largely Black crowd of friends and family, I shared my story of election night 2016, when a couple of friends, who are Black, and I watched Trump win:
I asked my friend James how he and his wife Brittany were feeling. He said, “We’ll just hunker down, again.” What struck me was that they both seemed unsurprised and matter-of-fact. Trump’s election was just another disappointment in a 400-year series of disappointments.
I told the audience that all of us should be offended that anyone has to “hunker down, again” in 2016, in America. I told them that’s why we need to elect leaders such as Charles Booker.
He was the right candidate at the right time then, and he is the right candidate for today. Charles went on to win a seven-person primary race, before winning with over 76% of the vote in the general election.
During his time in Frankfort, he’s been an unapologetic champion of gun reform, social justice, criminal justice, voting rights and expanding access to healthcare.
Another political cliche is that campaigns are about drawing differences with your opponent. Well, McConnell and Charles Booker could not be more different.
Where McConnell is old, Charles is young. Where McConnell will tear apart the environment for corporate profits, Charles supports the Green New Deal. Where McConnell will continue to lie and deceive coal miners and Coal Country, Charles shoots straight, saying we need to leave coal behind but not the people who mine it. Where McConnell pushes tax cuts for corporations, millionaires and billionaires, Charles is for a universal basic income.
McConnell is the very definition of “The Swamp” — elite even among the rich and powerful establishment — while Charles Booker still lives in the Russell neighborhood of The West End.
And, unlike McConnell, Charles Booker can provide what people need most during this time of crisis and unrest — empathy.
This primary election, which has been moved to June 23 because of COVID-19, I’ll be voting for Charles Booker, the only candidate who can empathize with the struggles, fears and frustrations of Kentucky.
He is the right candidate for this time.