By RONNIE ELLIS
Matt Bevin, the Louisville investment manager who’s trying to lead a Republican primary insurgency to topple incumbent U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, said Friday those seeking change in Washington must change who they vote to send there.
“How can we begin to remedy what ails us, financially and otherwise, if we continue to send the same tired ideas and tired people back to Washington over and over and over again?” Bevin asked about 60 supporters who showed up for a Capitol Rotunda news conference.
Just moments before, Bevin signed his official candidacy papers in the office of the Secretary of State, with his wife, Glenna, their nine children and Republican gadfly and long-time McConnell foe Larry Forgy looking on and smiling. Fittingly enough, Kentucky’s secretary of state is Alison Lundergan Grimes, the likely Democratic nominee for the 2014 Senate race.
But Bevin’s focus was entirely on McConnell Friday. He was perhaps a bit short on specifics about positions other than calling himself a “constitutional conservative.” But there was no confusion about his target.
“What is it that (McConnell) has done in the last 30 years that he’s proud enough to run on?” Bevin asked rhetorically. “What is the one thing he’s offering to do for us in the next six years that he’s not been able to get done in the last 30?”
Bevin, who has the support of several Kentucky tea party groups and national groups, like the Madison Project and the Senate Conservatives Fund, zeroed in on tea party themes championed in Washington by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Senator Mike Lee — especially “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act.
He asked what McConnell had done to stop the continued funding of the law during the government shutdown led by Cruz, prompting cheers from the crowd and even the lifting of some hands as if they were in a church revival.
Polls show the government shutdown hurt Republicans’ image with the larger public and McConnell has been at the forefront of a move by more establishment Republicans to weaken the influence of such groups as the Senate Conservatives Fund. But that song wouldn’t play Friday with Bevin’s 60 or so tea party fans.
Bevin mockingly used a McConnell phrase, saying “Obamacare must be repealed ‘root and branch.’ “ But he said McConnell not only hadn’t done anything to kill the law, he accepted campaign contributions from the company in charge of repairing the inept ACA website.
“We don’t need more Democrats in Republican clothes representing us in Washington,” Bevin said.
McConnell claims he’s the most vocal opponent of the law, but Republicans have no chance of repealing it so long as Democrats control the Senate and the White House.
Bevin directly took on doubts in the media and criticisms from McConnell’s campaign that he can’t win either the primary or general elections. Most publicly released polls show McConnell with an overwhelming lead at this point. McConnell has also raised $17 million while Bevin has reported less than $1 million.
“This is our race to win and we will it,” Bevin told the crowd. He said Grimes had already lost because she is associated with President Obama — though Grimes has gone out of her way to criticize Obama’s environmental and coal policies. She has also expressed concerns about the healthcare law, though she says she wouldn’t entirely repeal it.
Bevin also echoed a Grimes criticism of McConnell: that the five-term Senator from Louisville has enriched himself while in Washington, saying McConnell has always worked in government.
“I don’t know who his stockbroker is, but he’s done OK for himself over that period of time.” Bevin said.
Allison Moore, McConnell campaign spokeswoman, echoed a recent criticism by McConnell of those conservative groups that have challenged Republican incumbents in primaries, defeating some of them only to lose to Democrats in the fall. She also took a swipe at Forgy, who was a classmate of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid in law school.
“Matt is doing Barack Obama and the liberals in Washington a great service by trying to divide conservatives rather than focus on Alison Lundergan Grimes and the authors of Obamacare,” Moore said. “Perhaps that’s why he enlisted a Harry Reid supporter to sign his filing papers.”
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.
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