At GOP dinner, Stivers warns potential McConnell challengers: don't run, you'll lose

06/15/2013 07:20 PM

Republican leaders reaffirmed their support of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election bid on Saturday as state Senate President Robert Stivers directly confronted any potential primary opponent to McConnell.

“If you’re thinking about taking him on in a primary, don’t. You can’t win,” Stivers told the state Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner crowd that included businessman Matt Bevin — who has been entertaining overtures by some tea party groups to take on McConnell – and activist David Adams, who has been among the most vocal critics of McConnell.

Bevin told Pure Politics on his way into the fundraiser dinner at the Lexington Center that he didn’t have anything to announce.

McConnell, meanwhile, stuck to his early campaign theme of using President Barack Obama as a foil in a speech that closely followed the script of his standard Lincoln Day Dinner address that he has given in many counties in recent months.

And he didn’t address two of the biggest issues that dominated Washington last week: potential immigration reform measures and controversy over the National Security Agency’s programs that secretly tracked phone and Internet data of Americans. McConnell also declined to speak to reporters before or after the event.

But McConnell offered plenty of red meat to the GOP faithful, saying that the Democrats in Washington were taking America down the wrong path. “These people need to be stopped,” McConnell said.

He criticized Obama: “This is a very divisive president.”

He criticized the Environmental Protection Agency: “Regulations are creating a depression in Appalachia.”

And he made a pledge to the GOP faithful that he would return to Washington, D.C., for a sixth term in 2014 “to be Barack Obama’s worst nightmare for the last two years” of the president’s term.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington served as one of the hosts because the dinner was held in the heart of the 6th Congressional District that he represents. Barr was the only one of the speakers who mentioned the nation’s debt, saying it remains the biggest problem facing the nation. But he also embraced McConnell’s theme of describing the Obama administration as “arrogant” – and even took it to a new level.

“Washington is more arrogant and out of touch than ever before,” Barr said. “This is about a cancer that has infected the executive branch.”

He said the IRS targeting of tea party groups and the questions over the handling of security of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi are “the natural consequences of our ever-expanding government that has literally grown out of control.”

“The IRS scandal points to the need for tax reform,” he said, adding that the tax code has “10 times the number of pages as the Bible with none of the good news.”

And Agriculture Commissioner James Comer took a jab at Democrats who passed on challenging this race while continuing to stoke expectations that Comer will run for governor in 2015.

He listed what he called the “A-team of the Democratic Party,” including Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, former state auditor Crit Luallen, Attorney General Jack Conway, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and current Auditor Adam Edelen

“They all wisely made the decision not to run against you because they concluded they could not win,” Comer said to McConnell, whose table was in front of the podium. “They turned their attention to 2015 because they all think they can be elected governor. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to that bunch. But they’re not going to win that race either.”

Comer left his remarks hang there, giving way to applause and cheers.

Comer told Pure Politics later that he and other Republicans still have months to make a decision about running for governor and can afford to wait longer than the Democrats.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or


  • Bruce Layne wrote on June 16, 2013 10:52 AM :

    Well, the McConnell Machine got completely behind Trey Grayson in 2010. We heard all of this establishment bluster then, and when the dust settled, McConnell’s heir apparent to the throne lost to Rand Paul, the liberty TEA party candidate by a whopping 23 points and we have Senator Rand Paul today.

    In 2011, the liberty and TEA party folks got behind Phil Moffett for governor but were unable to raise any money for him. With a paltry $100,000 against a few million dollars raised by the establishment candidate David Williams, Phil Moffett won the Golden Triangle (Lexington and surrounding counties, up to the Cincinnati suburbs in northern Kentucky, down to Louisville and surrounding counties, and all counties within). Every place where there was organized grassroots support, Phil Moffett won the primary. He lost where voters only had the Williams/Farmer radio ads as a basis for their voting. Overall, the Moffett/Harmon ticket lost by 10 points to the Williams/Farmer ticket, and as the grassroots activists warned the establishment Republicans, that ensured us four more years of governor Beshear, and now we’re fighting Beshear’s illegal rollout of Obamacare in Kentucky. Meanwhile, Beshear gave Williams a lucrative state retirement double dipping judicial appointment (at taxpayer expense) to get Williams out of the way, and the last time I checked, the federal government was in the process of sending Richie Farmer to prison for his previous egregious misdeeds as our Commissioner of Agriculture.

    In 2012, the liberty and TEA Party got behind Thomas Massie to be our US Congressman from Kentucky’s 4th district. The establishment split between Gary Moore and Alecia Webb-Edgington, and when that primary race was over, Thomas had earned more votes than the two establishment candidates combined, and we are now fortunate to have Thomas Massie representing us in Congress.

    The recent political history in Kentucky indicates that when the grassroots has a good candidate and can raise some money, they win, and they win big. If they can’t, we get a big government establishment Democrat instead of the big government establishment Republican.

    Which begs the question, why are the big government establishment Republicans so arrogant about their chances in 2014? Or is this false bravado they’re generating for public consumption? I’m not sure. It looks like they’d start to get a clue after looking at the results of those previous three races from 2010, 2011 and 2012, but most of them I’ve encountered are so steeped in establishment politics where the parties pick our politicians for us that they can’t seem to understand the concept that We the People are now electing our own representatives.

    At best, we’re ignoring the crony candidates being foisted on us by the parties, but the party anointing actually seems to be functioning as a negative endorsement for most Kentucky voters who have figured out that the good candidates come from the grassroots, and the same old bad candidates we’ve suffered under for decades are the establishment candidates promoted by the corrupt and self serving political parties.

    If the liberty TEA party grassroots is going to run a candidate against McConnell, they had better do it soon. The establishment Democratic Party has nobody half decent to run against McConnell, so it’s up to the TEA Party to replace Mitch “Wall Street Bailout” McConnell in the Senate.

    McConnell is the Great and Powerful Oz in this race, and if we get a good grassroots candidate, the people of Kentucky are about to get a glimpse behind the curtain.

  • viewer wrote on June 16, 2013 02:44 PM :

    I am waiting on you Sam before I post my thoughts. My rebuttal will be viewer at my best. Im just glad to see Mitch out and about in Ky. I know he ran out before anyone could ask him questions with his bodyguards. I wouldnt had much to say either if my hands were caught in the cookie jar. And with the new way the power uses Super Pacs, why the need ???? Now he can give another Billion dollar contract to the people that hired the janitor to look at our data to run ads against the Tea Party, The Democratic Party , Or China., Anyone he wants with that war chest we call the Tax Payer paying these companies. I wouldnt stay around for questions either… No No No. Get me out of here boys.

    To Jamie Comer : I like you , and have backed you for everything. Dont sell people like me out to kiss up to Mitch. His time and power in this state , might not be something you will be proud of in coming days. The viewer

  • Bobby wrote on June 16, 2013 10:16 PM :

    I think the McConnell campaign is deeply concerned about a challenger. Why else would the Senator have so many mouthpieces trying to scare away all potential challengers? Could it be because the Senator has such a terrible non-conservative voting record? If he has the confidence that he tries to display then he should invite a challenge. His pathetic voting record cannot be concealed and that will lead to his defeat. By the way, I’m betting that a real challenger will enter soon and then Mitch can really begin to sweat.
    Maybe we shall find out if lots of money ( Mitch’s Millions) can really trump the facts (Mitch’s voting record).

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