Bevin pokes fun at 'tension' with McConnell, calls for help from GOP to defeat Conway

05/31/2015 12:59 AM

LEXINGTON — Two-thirds may not have been his crowd at the beginning of the night, but by the time state Republicans left Lexington’s Marriott Griffin Gate Saturday they at least had a dose of humor and an attempt at reunification from freshly minted nominee Matt Bevin.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell was back in Washington, D.C., but that didn’t stop his one-time rival from attempting to make light of potential tension between he and McConnell at the statewide Republican Lincoln Dinner on Saturday.

A video was played to illustrate the true nature of the Bevin-McConnell relationship. Bevin, the former Senate primary challenger, is seen in the skit wearing a “Team Mitch” shirt and talking lovingly on the phone with the senior senator.

The video drew laughter and applause from the packed Republican crowd.

Throughout the evening elected Republican officials took their turn at the podium, calling for party solidarity behind Bevin in an effort to beat Democratic candidate for governor Jack Conway.

McConnell is preparing to hold a rare Sunday session of the U.S. Senate Sunday over the expiration of the Patriot Act, but his state director Terry Carmack read a letter from the six-term incumbent endorsing the full GOP slate.

“We must be united and elect all of these Republicans to office in November of 2015,” Carmack read from McConnell’s letter.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, also spoke at the event on Saturday, and he too finds himself in a peculiar situation with McConnell. Paul is philosophically opposed to to the Patriot Act and the bulk collection of phone data — which McConnell sees as necessary in a post 9-11 society.

“I think this is instructive about unity,” Paul said on the divide. “Unity doesn’t have to mean we agree about everything.”

“Here’s the thing, and my advice Matt, is it’s a growing experience. You grow together,” he said.

Bevin called on help from the gathered Republican crowd to help him defeat Conway in the general election, a pitch which others in the GOP trumpeted from the podium.

House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, backed Agriculture Commissioner James Comer in the primary, but on Saturday night he was fully committed to Bevin.

“I am here tonight for one reason. I am here tonight to enthusiastically — without reservation — without any hesitation pledge my support — my work — and the best efforts I can make to elect Matt Bevin the next governor for the commonwealth of Kentucky,” Hoover said.

Comer was still on a family trip to Florida, but his former campaign manager Edwin King and running mate Sen. Chris McDaniel of Taylor Mill were in attendance. Hal Heiner and K.C. Crosbie did not attend the dinner, and neither did Will T. Scott, but his former running mate former Menifee County Sheriff Rodney Coffey attended the event.

For the party, Bevin contended there is only two ways to proceed this fall.

“We can do it the right way, or the Conway,” he said.


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