CAVE CITY —
U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin was so pleased with his reception at the Barren County Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday evening that he canceled plans to go to another event.
Bevin, a Louisville investment manager, is challenging five-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the May Republican primary. McConnell wasn’t present at Cave City Convention Center, attending instead a similar event in Grayson County.
Bevin faced a largely friendly crowd. Former Barren County Judge-Executive David Dickerson has been a staunch supporter and worked to sell as many tickets as possible to Bevin supporters. That was evident when Bevin was introduced by local party co-chairman Mark Haines. About a third of the crowd rose to its feet, applauding loudly.
While McConnell wasn’t in the house, some of his supporters were. They wore “Mitch” stickers, but some seemed aware they might be outnumbered. But there were also some who might like many of the things Bevin says but still like McConnell’s influence and power.
“Even though I might agree a little more with Bevin politically, I kind of hate to see Mitch lose the opportunity to become majority leader which I think would be good for Kentucky,” said Barren County Attorney Jeff Sharp.
But Sharp said Bevin may do well in Barren County because of Dickerson’s efforts on Bevin’s behalf and because of growing influence of the tea party here.
Others, like Steve Birge, a Barren County optometrist originally from Monroe County, said he thinks McConnell will probably win both counties, although he concedes Bevin has support. But Birge is comfortable sticking with McConnell.
“We know what we’ve got with him,” Birge explained. “With Bevin, it’s a little bit of the unknown.”
That’s part of Bevin’s problem. He often charms small groups, but he isn’t very well known statewide according to multiple publicly released polls. And he is far, far behind in the money race, making it more difficult to introduce himself to voters.
But while McConnell wasn’t here and many Bevin supporters were, that didn’t mean McConnell’s campaign operation was missing. While the crowd dined inside and waited for speakers, someone placed copies of a Breitbart News article about a controversial letter signed by Bevin which lauded the 2008 financial rescue of Wall Street on cars in the parking lot.
Bevin has pounded McConnell for supporting the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program, but POLITICO reported on a letter from a financial firm headed by Bevin praising the TARP. Bevin has said he didn’t write the letter, that his signature was a “formality,” and that his signature was digitally attached.
But McConnell’s campaign says the letter shows Bevin hasn’t consistently supported positions he now takes as a candidate.
As he often does, Bevin gave a partly biographical speech, telling about his childhood in a large family, paying his way through college and about his own large family – Bevin and his wife have five biological children and have adopted four others.
He talked about his Christian faith and his time in the military, saying little about his success as an investment manager or his personal wealth. He painted his candidacy as a crusade to return the country to traditional values and constitutional government rather than personal ambition.
“This is not something I want to do as much as it is something I am willing to do,” Bevin said.
He said it “is incumbent on us to step up” and provide an alternative to “the path that led to where we are today.”
Bevin made sure the crowd knew he supports the Second Amendment and that not only he, but his wife, Glenna, have concealed carry licenses and that he gave his wife an assault rifle. “This is who we are,” Bevin said. “We are a simple people.”
This is our time, this is our place, this is our election,” Bevin said. “Let us rock the world and let us take back America.”
As he finished, more than half of the crowd rose and applauded. He never mentioned McConnell.
Bevin was followed by Glasgow’s Jeff Jobe, the publisher of a weekly newspaper in Barren County, who attacked his Democratic opponent for a seat in the state House, incumbent Rep. Johnny Bell of Glasgow.
Jobe hit on several themes of Frankfort Republicans, saying he will support the repeal of prevailing wage laws and that after 90 years of Democratic domination of the state House, “it is time for change, Kentucky change.”
He said Bell has “jumped right into the laps of Kentucky’s most liberal politicians in history – Steve Beshear, Greg Stumbo and Alison Lundergan Grimes.”
Jobe said Bell has aligned himself with President Barack Obama supporters in the state House. That characterization might surprise Democratic House leadership, which is led by Obama critics and coal supporters such as Speaker Stumbo and Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.
Read more in the print or digital Glasgow Daily Times. http://glasgowdailytimes.cnhi.newsmemory.com/