"Kentucky Makes a Big Blue Move!" says the headline on a new fund-raising email from The People’s Campaign, which is backing Charles Booker in next year's U.S. Senate race.
The cyber missive isn't a celebration of the University of Kentucky Wildcat football team's 4-0 season start. Booker, from Louisville, earned undergrad and law degrees from the University of Louisville.
“The Republican-dominated state legislature was called in for a special legislative session by Governor Andy Beshear (D), in order to constructively address the COVID crisis,” the email says. “Shamefully, the Republicans passed a law banning a statewide mask mandate in Kentucky schools. But then something encouraging happened!
"96% of all local Kentucky school boards, including many in the reddest parts of the state, responded by enacting school mask mandates at the local level!
"This is a clear indication that Kentucky Republicans have gone too far, even for voters in the reddest parts of the state!"
Booker, a Democrat, is a former state representative from his hometown. He is the leading contender for his party's Senate nomination in next May's primary, though the filing deadline isn't until January.
Paul, seeking a third term, is expected to face little or no opposition in the GOP primary.
Outlawing a statewide mask mandate gives "Booker...something to build on,” adds the email.
Kentucky is one of the reddest Republican Red states. Every county went for Donald Trump both times he ran, save Jefferson (Louisville) and Fayette (Lexington).
But school boards are elected, too. Boards that are requiring teachers and students to mask reflect national polls as COVID surges anew nationwide.
Nearly 60 percent of Americans favor mask mandates for pupils and their teachers in K-12 schools, says an August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (Similar numbers say pupils and teachers should have to get COVID shots, too.)
To be sure, raucous and threatening anti-mask protests at board meetings and elsewhere have grabbed headlines and made the TV news. But a whopping majority of boards in Kentucky, and across the country, have approved mandates with little or no public outcry.
Meanwhile, far-right-wing politicians like Paul have made the GOP the party of COVID denialism and potentially deadly disinformation.
Oh, he insists that mask and vaccination mandates abridge "personal freedom." Paul is a fan of the late Ayn Rand, a controversial atheist writer and philosopher. While religions teach that selflessness and self-sacrifice are fundamental moral principles, Rand claimed selfishness — the ultimate "personal freedom" — is a virtue.
But, “your freedom ends at my nose” is an old expression in law that seems particularly apt for an airborne virus that has triggered the deadliest global pandemic in a century.
"Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky Republicans recklessly risked the health and well-being of our children, and we have to make sure that Kentucky voters remember that, at the polls!" the email concludes.
Recent headlines are starker reminders:
Lexington Herald-Leader: "‘The doctor cried with us.’ Mother of 1st Fayette student to die of COVID tells story"
"Fayette school district loses first student, 15, to COVID-19. ‘Wrap our students in love,’"
"'True heart of a teacher.’ KY school district mourns death of teacher with COVID-19."
Louisville Courier-Journal: "'It never stops': In a US COVID-19 hot spot, a viral surge tests one Appalachian clinic."
Kentucky Health News: "Covid-19 is killing 40 Kentuckians a day; 453 are on ventilators; state’s seven-day infection rate still ranks third in the nation."
The still-climbing death toll trumps headlines: So far, COVID has claimed the lives of more than 8,500 Kentuckians, according to The New York Times. That’s a little more than the population of Harrodsburg.
The People’s Campaign website says the organization "is a grassroots political action committee" which aims "to change politics and policy in ways that positively impact people."
I can't think of a more recklessly negative way to impact Kentuckians than to ignore science and reject mask and vaccination mandates whose sole purpose is to keep us out of the hospital and the cemetery. But that's the way of Rand Paul and the Republicans who rule the roost in the General Assembly.
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