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Paul sidesteps KET debate in favor of online attack ad

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Republican Senator Rand Paul skipped a chance to debate his Democratic opponent, Charles Booker, on KET Monday night – instead opting to post a video attempting to tie Booker to violent political tactics.

Bypassing a deadline to respond to KET, Paul forfeited the opportunity to appear alongside Booker, leaving the Democrat a half-hour platform to argue for his candidacy.

"Senator Paul was also invited to appear this evening, but he did not respond to our invitation," host Renee Shaw said at the top of the program.

The Democrat quickly pounced, saying Kentuckians deserve to hear from both candidates.

"I know there will be people who will watch and they may not have thought that they were going to support me before this show. Regardless of that, everyone should be disappointed that Rand Paul does not care enough to be here. We will beat him in November because we are building a coalition from the hood to the holler."
U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker (D)

But it’s Paul’s dominant poll numbers, larger campaign warchest, and name recognition that could have contributed to his decision not to debate. Instead, Paul posted an ominous 3-minute video to social media, revisiting threats and attacks, both rhetorical and physical, against the incumbent lawmaker. The ad cast Booker as a political violence sympathizer and attempted to link him to comments made by supporters.

"It's clear. Charles Booker doesn't believe in civil discourse, only violence," the narrator warns.

Booker responded on Twitter, posting, "Instead of debating me, (Paul) put out a sinister ad blaming me for the congressional shooting 5 yrs ago, violence around the country, and his neighbor beating him up."

Paul has repeatedly linked Booker to the movement to “defund the police," but the Democrat said Monday that he doesn’t favor cutting back law enforcement funding, shifting the focus instead to his desire for a more interconnected system of safety programs that works in tandem with police.

For now, no other potential debate dates have been announced in the senate race, and voters may have to settle for a campaign fought online and over the airwaves.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.