As part of his campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green, Democrat Charles Booker spoke to a room full of Western Kentucky University students Thursday.

Booker gave a 15-minute speech describing his platform, values and upbringing in Kentucky to the dozens of students in attendance.

He then answered several questions from the crowd and had a brief photo-op with many of his supporters.

The former state lawmaker said he had fought for them during his time in Frankfort, and he would continue to do so in order to earn their trust and support.

“Engaging with students here at Western and all over Kentucky and talking to a lot of young voices and student leaders who are concerned about their futures is really the central part of this campaign,” Booker told the Daily News. “The only way we fight for change is if regular folks come together. And that means understanding the power of student leaders and youth voices who are driving the future, because they are the future.

“Students can be an afterthought, and our collegiate leaders can’t be an afterthought,” he continued. “As the youngest person in the room oftentimes in the political space, I know how important it is to start upfront and say ‘I want to be accountable to you. I’m here to work for you.’ We are organizing in large part because of leaders on college campuses across the country.”

Booker’s appearance was hosted by the campus group WKU Young Democrats.

The group’s president, Olivia Marshall, said her organization wanted to be sure to get Booker on campus in front of students before primaries began in May.

“Western is a pretty mixed-type of demographic in terms of race and gender and political affiliation,” Marshall said. “So, making sure we have this progressive candidate come on campus was really important. We are really trying to engage with students in having as many political candidates that we can have on campus.”

Marshall said she most enjoyed how Booker spoke of bipartisanship and how we would reach across the aisle to work with Republicans if he defeats Paul.

“That’s something a lot of people are worried about,” Marshall said of bipartisanship. “By showing there is an effort being made – I think is a good stepping stone to breaking that gap.”

A major aspect of Booker’s pitch to the new crowd was his campaign initiative of pushing a “Kentucky New Deal.”

The Deal aims to lift people out of poverty, build infrastructure and provide universal health care coverage.

“It’s allowing us to build a big coalition so that we are not dealing with the national talking points and the wedges that divide folks,” Booker said. “We are dealing with real issues that people are facing. I told student leaders here about rationing my insulin. Republicans, Independents and Democrats know what that’s about. We are telling the story of how we come together. It’s powerful to see, and we are going to win this race.

“We know we are dealing with a climate crisis,” he added. “We know that our environment is changing before us. We saw that tornado rip across Kentucky right before Christmas. We know that we cannot sit back and refuse to act. The Kentucky New Deal is really our commitment to that work. If people go to CharlesBooker.org they will see the elements of what we are fighting for: life, freedom and prosperity.”

Booker also expressed his disagreement with Thursday’s court verdict for Brett Hankison, a former police detective charged in the police raid that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor almost two years ago in Louisville. Hankison was found not guilty of three counts of wanton endangerment.

Hankison was not charged in Taylor’s shooting death, The Associated Press reported, but some bullets he fired through Taylor’s sliding glass door and bedroom window went into a neighbor’s apartment, coming close to striking a man inside.

Booker said the ruling was another example of justice “failing” Taylor even after her death.

“As I mentioned here today, no one’s door should be kicked in,” Booker said. “There should not be a no-knock warrant that allows someone’s door to be busted down. Honestly, we need true community safety. That means we are standing with men and women in uniform as well to do the things that will actually keep us safe in our community and make sure that what happened with Breonna doesn’t happen with anyone else. The George Floyd Justice and Policing Act is a step towards that.”

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

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