Charles Booker | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Charles Booker

Political party: 
Democrat
Incumbent: 
No
Question 1: 

What’s your vision for Kentucky? How will the lives of Kentuckians be improved as a result of your time in office?

My vision is a Kentucky where people from every corner of the Commonwealth; no matter who you are, where you come from, who you love, how much money you have in your pocket, what you believe, what pronouns you use, whether you are walking or in a wheelchair; that you know that your lives matters. It is a vision where everyone is heard and accounted for and is represented by a government that elevates your voice over corrupted interests. This campaign is about building a movement where Kentuckians are encouraged to stand, lock arms and lead for the changes we deserve.

By taking this stand not only will we beat Mitch McConnell, but we will win our future. We will no longer die because we choose to feed our families over buying necessary life saving medicine. As U.S. Senator I will lead by creating a process for transparent and authentic engagement to ensure the voices of Kentuckians are the priority. As a result of our leadership in Washington we will stand to end generational poverty, address structural racism and inequity, and build pathways of opportunities for all the people of Kentucky.

Question 2: 

How would you create a more equitable federal tax structure – where everyone pays their fair share – that raises adequate revenue, fights poverty,  and invests in under-resourced communities and the services we all need?

Our federal tax structure is broken. This problem was made even worse by the 2017 Republican tax bill that Mitch McConnell helped shepherd through the Senate. Now, those of us near the bottom are paying a greater portion of our income in taxes than rich folks like Donald Trump. Kentuckians and all Americans deserve real action on tax reform that will provide relief for struggling families, and ensure that large corporations and the wealthiest few pay their fair share. It is time to address our regressive structure, so that Kentuckians can thrive and live gainful lives.

As Senator, I would press for an overhaul of the federal tax code that undoes the harm caused by the 2017 tax law, closes loopholes that corporations and the wealthy use to avoid paying their fair share, and eases the burden on working families in communities like mine and all across Kentucky.

My campaign and this movement is focused on ending structural racism, gross inequity, and generational poverty. I believe that no Kentuckians should have to decide between paying the rent, or buying a life saving prescription. I believe that all Kentuckians deserve the security of a good paying, unionized job. And yes, I firmly believe that no human being should have to die because they can’t afford healthcare. That is why I’m a proponent of Medicare for All. One of the greatest economic booms that rural Kentucky has experienced in the 21st Century came when our government expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

I also believe that ending generational poverty will require bold solutions that lift up and provide stability for all working families; that’s why I support a Universal Basic Income, a policy that carries on the work of Dr. King. Kentuckians deserve the freedom to make financial decisions in their lives, the resources in their communities that will foster local business and ownership, and a government that does not sell them out for big corporate interests. Poverty is outdated, immoral, and expensive. It is time that we end it. Leading for equitable tax reforms and direct investment in the people of Kentucky will help us make that happen.

Question 3: 

What would you do to make sure that every Kentuckian has quality, affordable health care? What are your top health policy priorities, and what approaches to health care coverage do you support? Do you support Medicare For All?

As a Type 1 diabetic, I personally know the reality of having to ration insulin because there isn’t enough money. That is unacceptable. I believe that healthcare is a right for all Kentuckians and Americans,regardless of how much money they have in their pocket. When Kentuckians are healthy and productive, we all benefit. With this being said, I am an advocate for Medicare for All. Like many families, I had to make the choice of whether to take care of my family or buy my expensive medication. I chose my family, and almost died. Kentuckians deserve so much more than that.

When I say I support Medicare for All, it is rooted in a core belief that your zip code or financial status should not determine your health prospects. Our lives are not commodities. We need a Senator who fully understands this, and not someone who would call themselves the ‘Grim Reaper’ we continue to die.

Question 4: 

Do you support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for young people and adults? What are your plans to expand support and resources for immigrants and refugees, undocumented or otherwise?

I fully support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for young people and adults. In fact, I believe we need immigrants and refugees to bring their skills, talents, resources, and hard work to the United States in order to continue to grow our economy. Our nation thrives on the multiculturalism that comes with immigration. Embracing this truth is exactly how we will win our future.

Progressive, comprehensive immigration reform starts with undoing many of the harsh, inhumane policies of the Trump Administration. As Senator, I would support legislation that makes it illegal to separate children from their families at the border, end the “Remain in Mexico” policies, reassess legal immigration quotas, codify Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Arrivals, and create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who contribute to American society. Let me be clear, no person is illegal. Mitch McConnell May ignore the humanity of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and service members, but as the next Senator, I never will.

Question 5: 

Is dealing with the climate crisis a high priority for you, and if so, do you support federal legislation for a Green New Deal? How would you ensure that solutions to the climate crisis benefit all Kentuckians – no matter the color of our skin, income, immigration status, or zip code?

Make no mistake, we are in a state of emergency. The movement we are seeing in Kentucky, and across the country, is an urgent declaration that we must lead now. I have two young daughters, and I want them to grow up and thrive in a Commonwealth that can support them. I believe addressing the climate crisis is not only one of the greatest imperatives of our time, but also one of the greatest economic opportunities for Kentucky. Further, addressing environmental injustice and racism is critical to protecting our families and our livelihood. That is why I’m an enthusiastic supporter of the Green New Deal, and why I’ve signed the No Fossil Fuel Dollars pledge. This is not a time to be politically calculated, or shirk away from the real challenges we face. This is not about outsiders telling us what we should do. This is about us taking a stand. For me, it is not simply that we need a Green New Deal, but we need a Kentucky New Deal. It’s time for us to lead the way.

Our country has a desperate need right now for clean, renewable energy that doesn’t contribute to global climate change. Kentucky coal miners have supplied the country with energy for generations, and have been left high and dry as a result. There is no reason Kentucky can’t be on the forefront of supplying the nation with clean, renewable energy for generations to come, and enjoy the reliable jobs that come with it. Instead of accepting a Senator that will lie about the declining coal industry, and turn his back when our loved ones get Black Lung, it’s time we had a Senator who will fight for us. I commit to doing just that.

Question 6: 

What is the role of the U.S. Congress in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, Latinx people, immigrants, those who are undocumented, and all people of color in our country? Please identify at least two policy initiatives you would propose while in office to address racial and systemic inequalities.

I believe we cannot move forward as a nation until we come to terms with our past. This requires us to acknowledge our structural ills, and dedicate our policy and budgetary decisions directly toward removing inequity that has continued for generations. I’m a lifelong Kentuckian, and several generations of my family have called the Commonwealth home. I’ve had relatives who were enslaved in Kentucky. I’ve had relatives lynched in Kentucky. My grandparents were redlined in Kentucky. I understand intimately the legacy of slavery and white supremacy isn’t in our distant past; we still grapple with it today.

I’m running my campaign because I believe it’s time for Kentuckians to stand up for system-level change and tackle structural racism and inequity head-on. I also believe we need real criminal justice reform, including an end to the war on drugs, as well as expungement opportunities and automatic restoration of voting rights to all people with felonies in their past. This belief is why I have been a relentless advocate in the Kentucky State Legislature for amending the Kentucky Constitution to allow for the automatic restoration of voting rights. I am grateful to have worked alongside KFTC in this effort during my time as State Representative, and will push even harder once elected to the U.S. Senate.

I also believe we need to direct investment in communities of color that have been blocked from meaningful investment due to structural racism. I believe we need to focus resources and educational opportunities in our most underserved, marginalized and disadvantaged communities. We cannot look away from a Universal Basic Income. We cannot look away from the need to earnestly engage reparations.

This issue is not simply about how we redress harms done to people of color and descendants of enslaved Americans. Leading on an end to inequities that are systemic and structural will uplift all Kentuckians. Families all across the Commonwealth are struggling. By taking our challenges head on, and locking arms in a movement to break down barriers for all of us, I believe we will realize the type of transformation that will ignite our economy and help us all to heal.

Question 7: 

Kentucky has the ninth highest incarceration rate in the nation, is second in the nation for incarcerating women, and has the second-highest rate in the country of children separated from a parent due to incarceration. In addition, Black Kentuckians make up 8.3 percent of the state population but 21 percent of the state’s incarcerated population. Are you committed to ending mass incarceration in Kentucky and in the United States as a whole? Why or why not? If elected, what will you do to make strides toward ending mass incarceration and reinvesting resources into the communities most impacted by this system?

I am extremely committed to ending mass incarceration, as well as mass criminalization. Our justice system is rooted in inequities that disproportionately harm minority and impoverished communities; we lock up people of color at a rate much higher than other communities, and it costs the government and taxpayers a lot of money to do it. According to the ACLU, one in every three black boys and one in every six Latino boys will go to prison at least once in their lifetimes compared to just one in every seventeen white boys. These numbers are clear proof that mass incarceration is putting people of color behind bars at alarming rates. This is not keeping communities safe. This is not helping families to heal.

As a community organizer, former director at a national non-profit focused on comprehensive solutions to violence, and now as a State Representative, I have dedicated my passion and expertise to this work. It is why I sought to serve on the House Judiciary Committee in the Kentucky General Assembly. I firmly understand that reforming our justice system will heal generational trauma, boost our economy, and directly combat poverty. As U.S. Senator, I will stand with the growing coalition focused on this issue.

One immediate example of work we must do is around ending cash bail. Another very critical focus must be on decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis. We know that the war on drugs and the poor has cause tremendous harm and devastation for many Kentucky families. This certainly is true across the country as well. By legalizing cannabis, commuting sentences, expunging records, and making direct economic investment geared toward ownership in those communities most disproportionately harmed, we can not only reduce recidivism, but we can transform life outcomes for the better. It has been a privilege to stand with KFTC, the ACLU, the Bail Project, and other organizations focused on reform. We will continue this work in Washington.

Question 8: 

Do you support restoring voting rights to Kentuckians with felonies in their past? Specifically, do you support the Democracy Restoration Act to restore voting rights to people upon release from prison for purposes of voting in federal elections? Do you support restoring the Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure strong federal oversight of state and local governments with a history of voter suppression aimed at communities of color? Please explain.

Yes, yes, and yes!

I fully support restoring voting rights to Kentuckians with felonies in their past. This has been my top priority as a legislator, and will continue to be my urgent focus as our next U.S. Senator. This session, I am the lead sponsor of a bill in the Kentucky General Assembly that would automatically restore voting rights to all Kentuckians who finish their sentences. I fully support the Democracy Restoration Act.

Our criminal justice system systematically targets the poor and people of color, and too many of our brothers and sisters in Kentucky have had their voices taken away because they’ve lost voting rights due to a past mistake they’ve already paid for. This is very personal to me. Some of my own family members who helped raise me, instruct me, inspire me, and push me to succeed, cannot vote today because of felony disenfranchisement.

The federal government -- and all governments -- have a responsibility to make voting as easy and accessible as possible for all of its citizens. That means that we must have strong oversight to ensure that voter ID laws aren’t able to disenfranchise voters, that voters aren’t removed from voting roles, that early voting is adopted nationwide, that barriers to voting and voter registration are eliminated, and that election day becomes a federal holiday to allow as many people as possible to vote.

Democracy is only strong when we all can participate in it. We must break down barriers to the ballot box. Kentuckians have been silenced and ignored for too long, and we have a U.S. Senator who profits from our disenfranchisement. That stops now.

Question 9: 

Do you support proposed Just Transition bills in Congress to take care of coal miners and communities by investing in abandoned mine land reclamation (H.R. 2156 and H.R. 4248) and extending current funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund for another 10 years (H.R. 3876 and S.3171)? Why or why not?

Absolutely. Those coal miners are our family. They gave their livelihood and sacrifice their lives, just so we can have light and warmth. It is time we stand up for them, and push back on corrupt interests that only seek to exploit, extract from them, and leave them stranded on the tracks. We know the coal industry is declining. Instead of abandoning our family, we need to be intentional about investing in them and providing pathways to opportunities for them to pursue their dreams and take care of their loved ones.

Coal miners and coal communities deserve respect. That means that we need leaders who recognize what the people and communities of coal-producing regions like Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky have given to our country. It also means that we must take much-needed steps to protect the land and water and create economic opportunities in coal country.

Not only am I a proponent of previously-introduced legislation such as the RECLAIM Act and ensuring funding for black lung benefits for our miners, I am pushing that work in the Kentucky General Assembly. I am proud to have joined a bipartisan group of legislators this session in co-sponsoring legislation that would make it easier for Kentuckians suffering from Black Lung to qualify for benefits they need and deserve. I’m also a proponent of leading on a Green New Deal that invests in energy-producing regions to build the new clean energy economy that Kentucky will benefit from for generations to come.

Question 10: 

What will you do to support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) Kentuckians? What will you do to protect people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

I’ve always been an ally to our LGBTQIA+ family -- in my personal life, as a candidate, and in my role as state Representative. I’ll continue to be an ally as Kentucky’s next U.S. Senator. My declaration for this movement that will beat Mitch McConnell and help us win our future, is a clarion call that no matter where you are from, what you look like, how much money you have in your pocket, who you love, or what pronoun you use, that you matter and deserve a government that is accountable to you.

Our governments have ignored discrimination against LGBTQIA people for too long. In the State House, I co-sponsored legislation to ban conversion therapy in Kentucky, as well as legislation to create statewide fairness.I believe we should have a nationwide fairness law that ensures that our loved ones recognized as a protected class, and makes housing and workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity illegal.

I am also firmly committed to locking arms with all Kentuckians, and fighting back against hateful legislation that would seek to infringe on access to public accommodations based on gender identity. Those types of laws cause trauma, intense heartache, and lasting harm to our communities as well as our economy.

I am proud to have been endorsed by CFAIR in my current role as State Representative, and I commit to continuing to stand with them, and every person and organization focused on truly ensuring fairness for all. This movement and this moment is for all of us.