Bevin to Kentucky GOP's voters: 'We deserve better' than McConnell

07/24/2013 10:37 AM

FRANKFORT — Saying that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell had “lost touch,” Louisville businessman Matt Bevin on Wednesday officially kicked off his bid to unseat Kentucky’s senior senator in the 2014 GOP primary.

“Never in the history of American politics has a party leader in the United States Senate been defeated in a primary,” Bevin told a crowd of about 65 supporters and more than a dozen reporters and some curious onlookers from nearby state offices. “But never has it been so important to make that happen.”

In his speech in the state Capitol Rotunda, Bevin introduced himself as a family man with nine children and a fiscal conservative from humble means who has run and worked for several businesses, including investment firms.

While taking four questions from reporters after his speech, Bevin vehemently denied the main charge in a new ad by McConnell’s campaign — that Bevin had tax delinquency problems. Bevin said he has never been late in paying taxes but has helped out others in that situation.

Bevin also confirmed that he was approached by people with “iron fists and velvet gloves” using promises and threats to entice him not to jump into the primary but he declined to name names.

In his prepared remarks struck a populist tone, pledging never to vote to increase congressional salaries, and slammed what he called elitists and career politicians.

“For far too long we have allowed the elite in Washington, D.C., to make decisions about nearly everything in our lives,” he said. “And what do we have to show for it?”

Bevin criticized McConnell for his “unwavering support” for the Patriot Act and for failing to stand up against “a deeply flawed immigration” bill that passed the U.S. Senate. McConnell voted against it, but Bevin criticized him for not being more vocal, calling it a “lack of leadership.” And Bevin slammed McConnell for voting to raise the debt ceiling and for federal spending bills that included earmarks for projects.

Referring to earmarks the “dirty grease” of Washington politics, Bevin said he wants to permanently ban their use.

But Bevin’s overarching message about McConnell was one he will likely share with Democratic candidates: that McConnell’s 30 years in office is too long and should be enough.

“Over his 30 years in Washington, Mitch McConnell has supported a lot of bad policies,” Bevin said early in his remarks.

State Sen. Damon Thayer, the Georgetown Republican who serves as majority floor leader, offered a response on McConnell’s behalf after Bevin’s speech.

Thayer said after all of McConnell’s work to build up the Republican Party of Kentucky, he would hope Republicans would “remain loyal” to him. And he predicted that Bevin will have a difficult time getting traction among Kentucky Republican voters.

Bevin’s entrance into the race adds a new dimension to McConnell’s run for a sixth term in the U.S. Senate.

McConnell now faces a challenge from the right in Bevin, who has pledged to put up some of his personal wealth to fund his campaign, and an expected strong opposition from Democrats. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is the frontrunner for that party’s nomination. She will kick off her campaign Tuesday in Lexington.

But while McConnell is facing an unprecedented challenge in both the primary and general elections, Thayer said McConnell’s grit, tough campaigning and smarts ultimately will win the day.

“If anyone can handle it, it’s Senator McConnell,” Thayer said.

_(More coverage and video to follow). _


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