Rand Paul opens huge fundraising edge in U.S. Senate race

The Republican incumbent had nearly $8 million in campaign funds in the bank at the end of 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has stockpiled a massive fundraising advantage heading into his 2022 reelection campaign in Kentucky, after the most prominent Democratic challenger’s campaign spent more than he raised in the final three months of last year.

Paul, who is seeking a third Senate term, had nearly $8 million in campaign funds in the bank at the end of 2021, according to his latest campaign-finance report. Democratic challenger Charles Booker had just $411,330 remaining in his campaign account.

The eye-popping disparity adds to Booker’s daunting odds in the Bluegrass State, which hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in three decades.

The libertarian-leaning Paul has far outpaced his fundraising pace from his previous reelection campaign. Paul tweeted Monday that “we’re starting this election year better off than ever before!”

“Individuals from every corner of the commonwealth, along with those who stand for liberty nationwide, continue to support Dr. Paul’s movement,” said Jake Cox, Paul’s deputy campaign manager. “Dr. Paul proudly opposes defunding the police, continued lockdowns and the outrageous spending that has caused inflation to skyrocket to record highs.”

Paul, an ophthalmologist, has clashed repeatedly with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, over the origins and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fauci recently accused Paul of using the pandemic for political gain, saying Paul’s website had a “fire Dr. Fauci” page and included a call for political contributions ranging from $5 to $100.

In Kentucky, the fundraising gap between Paul and Booker widened considerably late last year.

The Republican incumbent reported raising $3.8 million in the final three months of 2021. Booker’s campaign raised more than $653,610 and spent more than $764,000 in the same period.

Noting his underdog status in a social media video, Booker vowed to defy the odds. He said “people can doubt us all they want” while acknowledging Paul can “throw all his big money” into the campaign.

“So I hear people are talking,” Booker said. “They don’t think we’re going to win this race. That’s hilarious to me because they’re obviously not paying attention. We’ve been building our campaign. Our support has been on the ground.”

Booker is by far the best known of a handful of Kentucky Democrats seeking the Senate nomination. Booker recently announced he will hold several outdoor “drive-in” style rallies.

The race between Paul and Booker would be a battle between candidates with starkly different philosophies. Paul is a libertarian-leaning conservative while Booker is a progressive who has based his candidacy on the idea that working class Kentuckians of all races have more issues uniting than dividing them.

Booker, a Black former state lawmaker, rose to prominence in 2020 by touting racial and economic justice themes that coincided with protests erupting in Louisville and other cities across the country after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans in encounters with white people, including police. He touts Medicare for all, anti-poverty programs, a clean-energy agenda and criminal justice changes.

Booker narrowly lost the 2020 Democratic Senate primary to Amy McGrath, an establishment-backed rival who raised huge amounts of campaign cash but was trounced by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in the general election in GOP-leaning Kentucky.

Paul, once a presidential campaign rival of Donald Trump, became an ally of the former president. First elected to the Senate in the tea party-driven wave of 2010, Paul rails against socialism and big-government programs he says encroach on individual liberties and drive up the nation’s debt.

Kentucky has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.

 

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