Charles Booker, Democrat for U.S. Senate
Charles Booker is a native of West Louisville and a graduate of the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law. He was director of administrative services for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Steve Beshear Administration. He served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 2019 to 2021, and was a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2020. Booker is one of four Democrats running to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Rand Paul.
“My focus in this campaign is really about how do we end poverty,” says Booker. “I want us to invest in people for a change and invest in our infrastructure in a way that can make sure that no matter where you are in this commonwealth you have a pathway to prosperity.”
Booker says he understands the fears and frustrations that many Kentuckians have because he grew up in poverty, experienced homelessness, and had to ration the insulin he needs for his diabetes because he couldn’t always afford it. He says his personal story, his desire to change the status quo in politics, and his willingness to work across party lines has attracted the support of people who voted for former President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump spoke to some realities we that cannot ignore,” says Booker. “Now when he said he was going to make it better, he was exploiting fears, he was weaponizing pain, he never intended to be a part of the solution.”
The Democrat says he wants to create Kentucky New Deal that would include Medicare for all, universal pre-kindergarten, infrastructure improvements, and a universal basic income of about $2,000 a month.
“Right now, we have an economy that is built on our backs, but the profits go to these big corporations that have been continuously exploiting and robbing us,” Booker says. “We need an equity stake in the economy that we’ve built, not regressive taxes.”
Booker also supports reparations for the descendants of enslaved African Americans. He says the nation’s leaders must be willing to address the lingering economic impacts of slavery and racism just like they were willing to provide Master Settlement Agreement funds to struggling Kentucky tobacco farmers.
“I believe that the government we pay for has an obligation to make sure that we can all live a gainful life,” he says. “When injustices have happened at the hand of the government, we need leaders who will make sure to provide remedies and restitution.”
In addition to stoking racial division, Booker says Republican leaders have used abortion as a wedge issue for partisan gain instead of seeing it as a medically necessary health care procedure that people should be able to access. He says the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade should be codified into law so that the rights of women can be protected.
“I understand that this is an issue that can drive a lot of people apart,” he says. “But… we should not have politicians or government in the bedroom trying to mandate pregnancy or force Kentuckians to make these deeply personal and oftentimes life-threatening decisions.”
On crime and public safety, Booker says he supports law enforcement and first responders, but he says that police departments cannot continue to grow ever-more militarized.
“We cannot arrest our way to a safer society,” he says. “We cannot ask police to be all things community safety. We have to do the work.”
A better approach, according to Booker, is to invest in ending poverty, building thriving local economies, and safety programs that engage neighborhoods and communities.
“This is not about party for me, this is about doing the work,” says Booker. “Even in the times of heightened division and dysfunction, we can still build coalitions because our common bonds are so much greater that what drives us apart.”
Lee Watts, 2nd Congressional District Republican
Lee Watts is a Bowling Green native and a U.S. Air Force veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq. He was volunteer chaplain at the Kentucky Capitol for 13 years, has taught about constitutional rights, and organized a 2020 protest against COVID restrictions ordered by Gov. Andy Beshear. Watts is challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie.
“I am very against this out-of-control spending, this increase in taxation,” says Watts. “I like the conservative principals of less taxation and less government.”
Watts says his time in Frankfort along with his knowledge of constitutional principles has provided him with ample experience about the legislative process. The Republican says his top priorities are to oppose abortion, protect Second Amendment rights, and defend individual medical liberties. He says no tax dollars should go to abortions or Planned Parenthood and he contends much of the nation’s COVID-19 response had nothing to do with science or public health.
“I think a lot of what we have seen through COVID has been driven not by the virus… because different big companies such as big pharma are trying to make a lot of money off of the process,” he says. “If someone chooses to get a vaccine, they should feel free, but if they choose not to get one, I don’t think they should be forced, coerced, or pressured to do so.”
On gun rights, Watts says he opposes so-called red flag laws that allow police and/or family members to petition the courts to temporarily remove firearms from the possession of an individual who could do harm to themselves or others. He contends that violates the rights of someone who has committed no crime. He says the only people who should be denied a firearm are convicted felons or those deemed legally incompetent.
“If we ever lose our Second Amendment rights, then I believe all of our First Amendment rights will quickly leave as well,” says the Republican.
Regarding security along the U.S.-Mexico border, Watts says the nation should complete the wall started by former President Donald Trump. He says he supports legal immigration, but contends the nation now faces an invasion along its southern border which must be stopped.
Election security is another priority for Watts. He says he does not believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. He also says the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the work of Antifa and other far left groups, not Trump supporters who he says were being waved into the building by law enforcement.
“I think the coup to take over America took place in the wee hours of election night,” says Watts.
Watts says deficit spending is a major problem for the country and that the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid. He argues those funds should be kept at home to address infrastructure, high-speed internet access, and other critical needs. But the Republican also says President Joe Biden should do more to help Ukraine fend off the recent invasion by Russian forces. He supports sending arms and supplies to the Ukrainians, but he stops short of calling for no-fly zone or sending American forces to the conflict.
“I would not deploy U.S. troops in a place where we do not have any interest,” says Watts. “If there’s not a direct interest to the United States, we should stay out of these foreign wars.”
While he says Russian President Vladimir Putin is responsible for the war, Watts says President Biden is partly to blame for the conflict because of what Watts describes as the “disastrous” withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021.
“I think that is one of the reasons that it emboldened Putin to actually invade Ukraine because he realized American leadership is not what it was and he needed to strike while it is weak and disorganized,” says Watts.
Claire Wirth, 4th Congressional District Republican
Claire Wirth is a mother, builder, and real estate investment professional in Oldham County. She says she has been fighting for conservative values since she was a teenager living in Arizona. She is among three Republicans challenging incumbent Rep. Thomas Massie.
“I want to make sure that we’re standing up for liberty, fighting for our constitutional freedoms, and never bowing down to the radical left,” says Wirth. “This is my children’s future. I want them to have the American dream.”
Although she has been politically active for years, Wirth says she never considered running for office until the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. She argues that the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, and that his supporters who were at the U.S. Capitol that day were peaceful. She says left-wing radicals who infiltrated the event perpetrated the violence.
“There was Capitol Police that let people in… They held the doors open for them… So I’m not sure how that could be defined as an insurrection,” says Wirth. “Now we’re having political prisoners being held and denied their due process and nobody is standing up for them.”
Wirth says free and fair elections are critical to the country and our democracy. To protect voting security, she advocates eliminating electronic voting machines, which she says create a risk of fraud, and returning to paper ballots. She also wants more video surveillance of voting locations and ballot counts.
On gun rights, the Republican says she opposes red flag laws, saying they infringe on an individual’s right to own firearms. On foreign affairs, she calls for support of Israel and for completion of former President Trump’s border wall. Wirth says she hates the suffering Ukrainians are enduring at the hands of the Russian Army, but she says both sides are responsible for that conflict. She also contends there’s no amount of American aid that would end the war, and she says that money would be better spent fighting illegal immigration and helping the hundreds of thousands of homeless veterans in the U.S.
“There’s a lot of people in a real crisis in the United States of America that we’re ignoring,” she says.
Wirth contends federal COVID pandemic policies were more about controlling people than about science, and she says has not received any of the COVID vaccines.
“If you want to be vaccinated, then that’s your right, but I don’t believe that we should force anybody to be getting any kind of vaccine,” she says.
Finally, if elected Wirth pledges to serve only three terms in office. She says politicians who stay in Washington longer than that become beholden to special interests. She also says she will be a more respectful member of Congress than some other outspoken, far-right Republicans such as Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
“I’m going to be a fighter, a strong conservative fighter, but I also believe in having a certain amount of decorum,” says Wirth. “When you’re going to D.C. and you’re representing people, you have to bring a certain amount of grace with you. Simply yelling and throwing a fit on the House floor is not enough. You need go get in there, work hard, and do right by your constituency.”