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Rand Paul skips debate with Charles Booker, releases ad instead

Republican Sen. Rand Paul did not debate his Democratic challenger Charles Booker on KET Monday night, instead releasing a video accusing Booker of supporting "violent" political behavior.

Booker was on his own during the candidate forum after Paul didn’t respond to an invitation from KET, the statewide public TV network, which traditionally hosts debates in the month before Election Day.

During the broadcast, Booker described Paul as “an obstacle and barrier to Kentucky’s progress that needs to be removed,” and said he “stokes racism and division.”

“He's really blowing the dog whistle. Rand Paul wants people to look at the color of my skin instead of my record. That's why he keeps using those words over and over again,” Booker said.

Paul is running for his third six-year term in the Senate.

Hours before Booker’s appearance, Paul released a three-minute video showing the senator’s recent violent encounters – a man opened fire on a congressional baseball practice attended by Paul in 2017, and Paul’sformer neighbor tackled him later that year, breaking several ribs.

The video also included footage from when protesters accosted Paul and his wife Kelley near the White House.

In the ad, Paul’s campaign attempts to tie Booker to the incidents.

“While Senator Rand Paul has been dealing with violence and threats, his opponent Charles Booker embraces those who have engaged or glorified such violence,” a narrator in the ad states.

In the ad, Paul’s campaign also accused Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Colmon Elridge of “openly threatening Republicans on social media," citing a Tweet Elridge posted after this year’s Fancy Farm political picnic responding to anti-LGBTQ statements made by Republicans.

Elridge Tweeted that Democrats “won’t take it laying down” and “Please believe you’re gonna f**k around and find out.”

On Monday, Elridge responded to the ad, saying the Republican Party “has a dangerous allegiance to violent extremism.”

“That Rand Paul is also putting my family in the cross hairs of his political impotence is a bullshit move by a bullshit little man. Whatever polls he’s gotten must mean we’re on the march to victory,” he wrote on Twitter.

Paul’s campaign accused Booker of wanting to “defund the police” in the ad.

During the broadcast, Booker said he doesn't want to cut police funding and supports other community safety programs.

“That means we work with law enforcement, we work with faith leaders, we work with philanthropy, we work with business, we work with folks on the ground to address the social determinants of health, and actually invest in dealing with the root causes of crime,” he said.

Booker pushed for policies to fight climate change, expand health care coverage and defend abortion rights during the televised appearance.

When asked about abortion, he said he was committed to protecting the right to privacy for those needing it.

“I fully believe that women and the people of Kentucky deserve agency to make decisions over their bodies. And we should not have the government operating as a big brother surveilling in our homes to say that this person should not get health care,” he said.

The General Election is on Nov. 8. The register to vote is Oct. 11. You can check your registration on the secretary of state's website.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.