FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has hired former U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker for a lead role in efforts to connect state government with community and faith-based groups in policy partnerships.
Booker, a Democrat from Louisville, will head the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Community Involvement, the governor's office announced Friday.
The appointment comes more than two months after Booker was trounced by Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who secured a third term in last year's Senate election in Kentucky.
Booker, a former state lawmaker and two-time unsuccessful Senate candidate, said in a statement that he was “inspired to take on this opportunity” in Beshear's administration.
“Kentucky, I love you,” Booker said on social media. “I am honored to continue my service to you.”
As a candidate, he previously talked about his faith and how it helped shape his policy priorities.
Booker's election-year appointment to run an office created by a former GOP governor drew quick criticism Friday from the state Republican Party.
“The price for Charles Booker’s loyalty to Governor Beshear is a plum job in his administration and a taxpayer-funded paycheck,” state GOP spokesman Sean Southard said in a statement.
The governor's office didn't immediately provide salary details for Booker's appointment. The office Booker will lead was first established by former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Beshear's office said.
The appointment comes as the Democratic governor seeks a second term this year in GOP-trending Kentucky. A dozen Republicans are competing for their party’s nomination to challenge Beshear in November.
Polling shows Beshear has maintained high approval ratings from Kentuckians while leading the state through a series of tragedies, including the global COVID-19 pandemic, tornadoes that tore through parts of western Kentucky and floodwaters that inundated portions of eastern Kentucky.
But with the state's increasing tilt toward the GOP, Beshear faces a tough challenge as he tries to reassemble the coalition that carried him to a narrow victory over Republican incumbent Matt Bevin in the 2019 governor's race. Crucial to that coalition is Jefferson County — which includes Booker's home base of Louisville — where Beshear drew nearly 100,000 more votes than Bevin.
Booker's hiring was among several appointments to Beshear's administration on Friday. The governor said the appointees reflect the state's “deep well of talented people with tremendous dedication and a breadth of knowledge and experience.”