WASHINGTON -- Charles Booker, a 29-year-old employee of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, was fired Monday after appearing in an ad supporting the Senate candidacy of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D).
Booker told The Courier-Journal that the LRC informed him that he violated a policy that bars employees from engaging in partisan political activity. The commission is a fact-finding and research agency for the state legislature. Marcia Seiler, the agency's acting director, did not immediately return a request for comment on the details of the policy.
The Grimes campaign released a web ad featuring Booker's family on Feb. 11. The ad starred Booker's wife, Tanesha, who spoke of her hopes for her six-year-old daughter.
Booker appears with his family briefly in the piece. At one point he says, "What Alison Grimes has a chance to do is bring some energy and excitement and like what my wife was saying, some hope to get some stuff fixed up around here."
(Watch the ad above.)
“At the last minute I was asked to be in it," Booker told the Courier-Journal. "I expected there to be a response, but I didn’t think it would rise to the level of me losing my job. But that's OK."
In a statement sent to The Huffington Post, Booker blamed the allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for getting him in trouble with his bosses at LRC.
"I can confirm that LRC leadership informed me multiple times that it was Republicans in Senate leadership that complained and caused my termination, because I was in a video supporting my wife and child and saying nice things about Alison Lundergan Grimes," said Booker. "It is disappointing that people would use my support for my family and community as a political game of whack-a-mole. I refuse to be bullied, and if I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would."
"The bullying tactics of Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the State Senate are disgusting," said Jonathan Hurst, an adviser to Grimes. "Charles exercised his First Amendment rights and spoke out in support of his community and family in West Louisville, and the GOP's retaliatory behavior is appalling."
But state Senate President Robert Stivers (R) told the Courier-Journal, "I had nothing to do with any of the decision-making that anybody made about Mr. Booker."
A recent poll conducted by SurveyUSA for Kentucky media outlets -- including the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Courier-Journal and stations WHAS and WKYT -- found Grimes with a slim edge, earning 46 percent of support to McConnell's 42 percent.
UPDATE: 5:30 p.m. -- Booker was a former intern for state Sen. Gerald Neal (D), who told The Huffington Post he was outraged by Booker's firing and was considering making a comment on the floor Wednesday about the matter.
"[Booker is] an asset to anybody in any situation," Neal said, adding that Booker's appearance in the ad "has no relationship to what we do in the state [legislature] at all. The Legislative Research Commission has nothing to do with a federal election."
Neal said he wasn't sure of LRC's exact policy on political activity, but he believed that it did not include a specific prohibition on federal elections.
"I would be very surprised if it does have those kinds of parameters," he added.