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U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker

Renee Shaw talks about Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race with Charles Booker, Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate.
Season 29 Episode 34 Length 26:31 Premiere: 10/03/22


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis on major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw. Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form.
For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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The Kentucky Tonight podcast features each episode’s audio for listening.

Renee Shaw is Moderator and Director of Public Affairs for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums.

Since joining KET in 1997, Shaw has produced numerous KET public affairs series and specials, including KET’s nationally recognized legislative coverage. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, town hall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

As an award-winning journalist, Shaw has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and an award from the Kentucky Associated Press for political coverage of the state legislature. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; and, in 2015, received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.  

In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a six-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Democratic Senate Candidate Booker Discusses Policy Positions and Commitment to Service

Kentucky Tonight hosted the first in a series of discussions about the 2022 midterm elections as Renee Shaw spoke with Charles Booker, the Democrat running for the United States Senate. They talked about the economy, health care, education, public safety, term limits, and more.

Two-term incumbent Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green was also invited to participate, but did not respond to KET’s invitation.

Booker is a native of West Louisville and a graduate of the University of Louisville and the U of L Brandeis School of Law. He was director of administrative services for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Steve Beshear Administration. In 2018 he was elected to the state House of Representatives, where he served one term. Booker made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate in 2020.

“My platform is not derived from the Democratic Party. My platform comes from my lived experience in working across Kentucky,” says Booker. “If you want to call it moderate or progressive, I really don’t care what you call it. I just know we need better and I’m going to go to Washington and make it happen.”

Structural Racism and the Economy

Although he announced his bid to unseat Paul more than a year ago, Booker jumped into the national spotlight this past June with the release of a campaign video that featured him with a noose around his neck. Booker narrates the spot, saying that lynching was a tool for terror that was used against many Black individuals, including his ancestors.

The advertisement drew sharp criticism from some who saw it as distasteful, but Booker says he is proud of the commercial and how it differentiates him on issues of race and equality.

“We cannot ignore our pain or our past,” says Booker.

The Democrat says structural racism is a component of the issues that Kentuckians care about most, from health care and good jobs to safe schools and clean drinking water. Even as inflation continues to plague the economy, Booker praises President Joe Biden’s administration for making progress on infrastructure improvements, job creation, and climate change.

“The measures that President Biden has taken so far are important,” he says. “But there’s so much more work to be done, and with a 50-50 Senate, we need to expand our majority to keep making the investments in the people of Kentucky.”

Health Care and Abortion

The Democrat supports a universal basic income and Medicare for all. He says health care is a right and that the current system is unfair and unworkable for doctors, nurses, and patients. As a diabetic who had to ration his insulin earlier in his life, Booker says no one should have to choose between medicines they need and feeding their families.

To pay for expanded health coverage, Booker says he would reduce bureaucracy and administrative costs and end Republican tax breaks for wealthy corporations.

“We close loopholes, we bring more money into the system, we can afford to have health care for the people of Kentucky,” he says.

That would include access to abortion. He says he supports proposals to codify abortion rights protections into federal law, and to prevent states where abortion is illegal from punishing women who travel elsewhere to get the procedure. Booker, who is the father of three young daughters, says people deserve to have agency over their own bodies.

“I was raised in a Pentecostal church, I understand how important this issue is,” he says. “The government should not be mandating what health care some people get over others.”

Beyond abortion rights, Booker calls for improved maternal health services to address child mortality rates, as well as supports for new mothers that will ensure their babies can grow and thrive.


Booker calls for full and equitable funding of public education with emphasis on schools and student populations that have been historically marginalized. The Democrat also wants to address regulations that impact how teachers that may be eligible for Social Security from other employment or through their spouses receive that federal benefit.

While not specifically endorsing Critical Race Theory, Booker says teachers need to be equipped to teach American history in accurate and culturally competent ways.

“Critical Race Theory is typically taught in law school,” he says. “So what I’m alluding to is not denying the pain of our past so we that can be better prepared for our future.”

Police and Public Safety

Social media videos from Paul’s campaign position Booker as endorsing violence and wanting to defund law enforcement.

Booker says he has worked with law enforcement and community groups to address violence as a public health crisis. Rather than defunding police, he says he wants to explore the full range of options for improving public safety and addressing the root causes of crimes.

“It doesn’t make sense to get rid of budgets for law enforcement or any government agency,” he says. “What we need to do is fully fund community safety. 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.”

Booker rose to prominence during the protests over the police-involved shooting of Louisville EMT Breonna Taylor in 2020. The Democrat argues that police should be there to help people, not pose a threat to them.

“Calling for accountability is not calling for any sort of abolishment,” he says. “It is calling for the types of real structural change that will allow us to have safety.”

Building Coalitions, Being an ‘Independent Voice’

Booker supports term limits for public officials. He pledges to serve only two terms in the Senate, and calls out Paul for seeking a third term after supporting proposals to limit senators to only two terms. Booker says term limits will result in better policymaking.

“If you cannot go to the United States Senate and in 12 years get anything done for the people of Kentucky, go away,” he says.

Paul holds about a five-to-one fundraising advantage over Booker, and Republicans now outnumber Democrats in party registrations in Kentucky. But Booker contends he is building a base of support that transcends party lines and his urban roots in West Louisville.

“We are building a coalition from the hood to the holler of folks who have felt ignored, marginalized, forgotten about, and abandoned.,” he says. “Because of the organizing work that we’ve done on the ground over the last year-plus, we have inspired infrastructure that surpasses anything that can be bought in a paid ad.”

News reports earlier this summer indicated Booker considered switching his party affiliation to independent. Booker remains a Democrat but he contends partisan divisions have crippled the state. He says he wants to be an “independent voice” who is fighting “not to be bought in party politics.”

“I’m a Democrat not because of the party apparatus but because I believe in values of humanity,” says Booker. “I believe that democracy is worth fighting for, I believe we should make opportunities available for every community.”

As he travelled the state for his work in the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Booker says he began to realize that Kentuckians, despite any geographic, social, or racial differences, share common dreams and challenges. He says he considers people across the commonwealth to be his family, and he says his grandfather taught him to always take care of his family.

‘I come from a big family so I’m used to fighting for a lot of people,” says Booker. “I know that we can change things at a statewide level, at a national level, and if we do that, our local communities will be better prepared to succeed as well.”

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Season 29 Episodes

Medical Marijuana Legalization in Kentucky

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Kentucky's Juvenile Justice System

S29 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/23/23

Legislation Introduced in the 2023 General Assembly

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2023 Legislative Session Preview

S29 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/19/22

National Politics

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2022 Election Preview

S29 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/07/22

Inflation and the Economy

S29 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/31/22

Constitutional Amendments 1 & 2

S29 E37 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 10/24/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part Two

S29 E36 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 10/17/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part One

S29 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/10/22

U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker

S29 E34 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10/03/22

Discussing Flooding's Impact on Eastern Kentucky Schools

S29 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/26/22

COVID-19, Monkeypox and Influenza

S29 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/12/22

Eastern Kentucky Flooding and Legislative Relief Package

S29 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/29/22

Child Care in Kentucky

S29 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/22/22

School Safety: Debating State Policies

S29 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/01/22

Work, Wages and Welfare

S29 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/25/22

50 Years of Title IX

S29 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/18/22

The Impact of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

S29 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/11/22

Kentucky's Ban on Abortion

S29 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/27/22

Discussing New Developments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

S29 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/20/22

Reducing Opioid Addiction Rates in Kentucky

S29 E21 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 06/13/22

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S29 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/06/22

Discussing the Rise in Gas Prices and Inflation

S29 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/23/22

Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

S29 E18 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/16/22

Third Congressional District Democratic Primary

S29 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/09/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part Two

S29 E16 Length 58:33 Premiere Date 05/02/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part One

S29 E15 Length 58:40 Premiere Date 04/25/22

Lawmakers Review the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/18/22

Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

S29 E13 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/11/22

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

S29 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/28/22

Abortion Legislation in the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 03/21/22

State Budget, Taxes, and Other 2022 General Assembly Topics

S29 E10 Length 57:42 Premiere Date 03/14/22

Critical Race Theory and Approaches to Teaching History

S29 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/28/22

2022 Legislative Session at the Midpoint

S29 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/21/22

Name, Image and Likeness Compensation

S29 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/14/22

Child Abuse and Neglect

S29 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/07/22

Debating School Choice in Kentucky

S29 E5 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/01/22

Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

S29 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/24/22

Redistricting, State Budget, and Other Legislative Issues

S29 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/10/22

Discussing Legislative Goals for the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E2 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/03/22

Previewing the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly

S29 E1 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/06/21

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