Right now, the eyes of the country are on my home in Kentucky. In a few days, we will know if Charles Booker, a progressive Black man from one of the poorest districts in the state, will have beat out millions of dollars in establishment money to take on Mitch McConnell in the general election.
Last fall, with almost no money and no backing, Charles announced his run to take on Mitch. The event was humble, held in a rundown old building that used to be an old shoe store in Charles’s neighborhood. In the back room, before it started, all the speakers held hands and said a prayer. It’s a prayer Charles has shared at every rally and event since: if you have faith the size of mustard seed, you can move a mountain.
That mountain was McGrath; that mountain is McConnell; and they really never saw us coming. But look at us now.
The past few weeks have been utterly surreal. I’ve been knocking doors and making phone calls. I’ve been crying between houses and shedding tears over dinner because everywhere I go I see and hear Charles Booker’s name. It’s happening. The mustard seed is moving the mountain.
This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. Last summer, months before Charles entered the race, Amy McGrath was raising millions of dollars and national party bigwigs were lining up behind her. Pundits and Democratic leaders in DC said she was going to cruise to victory and that we shouldn’t bother putting up a fight.
But the people of Kentucky had something different in mind. We’re used to outsiders thinking they know what’s best for us and we have a rich history of fighting back as the underdog. From Muhammad Ali, to Anne and Carl Braeden, to the many movement elders who have raised us, having faith the size of mustard seeds to move mountains is in our blood.
So, I can’t say it was entirely a surprise to me that Charles’s campaign took off like it did. We’ve seen this kind of movement coming for a long time. I saw it last year in Mitch McConnell’s office, when Kentuckians from across the state were arrested demanding a Green New Deal. I saw it in Eastern Kentucky last summer, when the Black Jewel Coal miners blocked a coal train to demand their pay. I saw it in the state capitol, when teachers from all 120 counties went on strike to fight for their pensions and keep our schools strong.
I saw it and Sunrise saw it too. That’s why we were all-in for Charles from day one. Amy McGrath’s money and her DC consultants meant nothing compared to the power of our movement. For the past few weeks, teenagers from Indiana to Florida, from California and Kentucky have been filling their afternoons with phone calls to Kentucky voters. Just last week, I told Charles’s campaign manager our movement had made 200,000 calls to Kentuckians in one hour. He said, “Holy shit, did y’all ever know the revolution was gonna be a bunch of teenagers on zoom picking up the phone?” We laughed. But it was true.
We don’t know if Charles won the most votes yet, but we do know that this is already one of the biggest political upsets of the decade. Despite McGrath’s millions and a 50 point lead just months ago, working people from the hood to the holler locked arms to say Kentucky deserves better.
We smashed the myth that there’s no way for a man like Charles from West Louisville — who runs on the Green New Deal and marches with the Movement for Black Lives — can win. We sent a message to Kentucky and the world: a little mustard seed of faith can move mountains.
And you can bet we’re ready to move some more mountains.
Erin Bridges, Sunrise Louisville
PS. If you’re ready to help keep this momentum going, sign up today to make phone calls to voters for Andrew Romanoff. He’s running against a pro-fracking Democrat for US Senate in Colorado, John Hickenlooper (you might remember when he signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge then crossed his name out when he learned it included fossil fuel executives). His election is Tuesday, and we’ve already proven that every voter we reach counts to reach victory. Sign up here.