Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky joins a growing list of Republicans scurrying away from Democratic challengers looking to debate their opponents ahead of November elections. Paul simply didn’t show up on Monday to debate former Kentucky House Rep. Charles Booker on KET's Kentucky Tonight as planned, NBC affiliate LEX 18 reported. Booker described Paul’s disappearing act as “disrespectful” to voters.
“It's an affront to the democratic process,” the Democrat told LEX 18. “If you are running for office, you should make your case about why you believe your vision is best suited for the people. That’s what I’m doing. That’s what we’re doing across the Commonwealth. That’s why we’re organizing. That’s why I’m here tonight. He should be here too. He’s not entitled to this Senate seat. It doesn’t belong to him. It belongs to the people of Kentucky.”
Booker called Paul a “coward” in a Twitter photo showing the Democrat sitting alone on a set at the debate. “Rand Paul and I are supposed to debate tonight,” Booker said. “They even had a cup of water ready for him.”
Paul chose not to show up and receive the cup, citing concerns of political violence in an earlier interview with LEX 18. “I think that debates should involve civility and should involve parties that are actually willing to address questions,” Paul said. “And I think that there’s been a certain tenor, so far, that really involves more accepting of political violence - that I think worries me and makes me concerned.”
He tweeted on Monday: “Civil debate is an admired quality in a Republic but justifying, mocking, or celebrating violence, as documented in this video of Charles Booker and his allies, should be rejected.”
Video the Republican included in the tweet cited various incidents of violence aimed at Republicans, and relied on the racist dog whistle tactic of trying to link those incidents to a Black political opponent who had nothing to do with them.
One of those examples of violence was a baseball game from June 2017, during which James T. Hodgkinson fired at Republican lawmakers. It was an awful incident, in which Hodgkinson died after being shot by police, WBEZ Chicago reported.
In another incident cited in the video, Paul’s wife, Kelley, described a neighbor-related dispute that ended in violence in 2017. Rene Boucher was convicted of assault and ordered to pay $580,000 in damages after he attacked Paul and broke his ribs, NBC News reported. While admitting that Democrats condemned the violence immediately, the attack ad accused Booker of mocking Paul. The tweet that Paul’s team used as its sure-fire evidence of Booker mocking violence against Paul seems more like a spoof of the State Farm insurance jingle: “Like a good neighbor State Farm is there.”
The Booker campaign wrote: “Like a bad neighbor, Rand doesn’t care.”
Then, Paul proceeded to show his constituents through his actions how the words may not be too far from the truth. He bragged about supporting legislation to block potentially life-saving reproductive health care.
“I strongly oppose any federal funding of abortion and will attempt to stop the flow of tax dollars to groups who perform or advocate for abortion,” Paul wrote in a synopsis of his views on abortion. “I have been leading the fight to prohibit all taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider and introduced legislation to do so.”
Booker, conversely, advocated against government intrusion into the homes of the people of Kentucky. “I fully believe that women and the people of Kentucky deserve agency to make decisions over their bodies,” he said, “and we should not have government operating as a big brother, surveilling in our homes, certainly intruding in the uterus of the people of Kentucky to say that this person should not get healthcare.”
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