McConnell officially opens 2014 re-election bid as tea party and Democrats still search for challengers

02/02/2013 12:28 PM

Bring on the challengers — whoever they may be, Sen. Mitch McConnell told more than 60 key supporters who packed into his 2014 re-election headquarters Saturday.

It’s the earliest McConnell has ever set up a full-fledged campaign infrastructure for a re-election bid. And perhaps underscoring how difficult McConnell envisions his run for a sixth term to be, the campaign office is in the same building overlooking the Watterson Expressway in Louisville in which he had his first U.S. Senate campaign headquarters in 1984. While McConnell said he’s not superstitious, a good luck charm couldn’t hurt.

McConnell has pledged to run a presidential-style campaign across Kentucky. He said he knows Democrats will be marshaling their resources to unseat him, citing groups like Progress Kentucky that already have mounted protests and pledged to help tea party groups mount a primary challenge against McConnell.

“Look, I welcome these guys,” he said. “The want to fight? We’re ready.”

McConnell also told staff, volunteers and longtime supporters on Saturday morning that he simultaneously will be working in the U.S. Senate to keep President Barack Obama from moving to the political left. Here’s how he linked together his goals in the Senate and his re-election campaign:

McConnell praised campaign manager Jesse Benton, whom the senator called “the best person in the country to help us build” the most extensive statewide campaign Kentucky has seen.

McConnell already has raised more than $10 million for his re-election and has $7.4 million in his campaign account.

But so far, only one person — Owensboro Democrat Ed Marksberry, who got walloped in his race for Congress in 2010 — has announced he would run against McConnell.
null And while some Kentucky tea party groups have been publicly calling for a primary challenge to McConnell, so far none has emerged.

McConnell told reporters Saturday that he isn’t worried about — but is prepared for — a primary campaign. And he said he doesn’t see an irreparable split in the Republican Party or even two GOPs, as the New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested this week.

As for potential Democratic challengers, McConnell remained mum as he has been on how formidable an opponent actress Ashley Judd, whose family is from Kentucky, would be. Judd, who announced last week she is getting a divorce from her husband of 11 years, has said she is considering the race.

Here’s what McConnell said about Judd as well as the effect the rumblings about a primary challenge may have on his job as Senate Republican leader, considering the major debates on the horizon over federal spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling in May:

“My feeling is that I need to do my job as best I can,” McConnell said. “I know I can’t please everybody all of the time. But that’s the nature of leadership.”

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


  • viewer wrote on February 02, 2013 01:53 PM :

    Look at them 60 people/cronies in the crowd. Dont they look better off than the rest of us Kentuckians. Who in hell would get out on a cold day to support this man? A vote for Mitch is a vote that you want Kentucky to stay like it has been for the last 20 years. Are you better off Kentucky with Mitch’s power in Washington ? Simple question…

  • viewer wrote on February 02, 2013 02:52 PM :

    Hello fellow Kentuckians. Are we sick of money controlling our politics ? Are we sick of the me me candidates ? Team Mitch says it all. The only one that benefits from team Mitch is Mitch. Who gave him this war chest of money. I bet the coal workers did in Eastern Ky. LOL !!! Now he has Sen Paul’s campaign manager. To me thats like turning from MSNBC to Fox News. The lip service is bought to who can pay this man. After this election since the Tea Party is falling apart, Jesse Benton might be the mouth piece (campaign manager) for Al Sharpton’s campaign next. No way he can talk for Mitch and Paul without us laughing at his Jesse Benton’s hypocrisy. We Kentuckians are being played again. Wake up Kentucky !!!

  • sam pierce wrote on February 04, 2013 12:24 PM :

    Mitch McConnell is one of Kentucky’s three greatest all-time U.S. Senators, along with Henry Clay and John Sherman Cooper. We need him as MAJORITY Leader instead of Harry Reid. If it were not for evil Democrats infiltrating the Tea Party and Republican primaries in Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware in 2010, and Missouri and Indiana in 2012 we would have at least 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Don’t let the vocal minority of Kentuckians who voted for Obama or are fooled by Democrat diatribes againt Mitch persuade you. Mitch is head and shoulders above that wild-eyed crazy lunatic Ashley Judd or any other Democrat. Republicans and Tea Partiers need to unite to help Mitch become MAJORITY Leader.

  • viewer wrote on February 04, 2013 02:30 PM :

    Ok Sam could you give examples of how Mitch has helped Ky in the last 20yrs ? Could you give examples how he has helped the country in last 20yrs ? Could you give examples of how we’ve gotten better in any national ranking since he has been in Washington DC, education , health, jobs, etc ??? You are allowed to have your own opinion Sam but not your own facts… We like to say how much power Mitch has in DC , but I dont see any bridges being built. I dont see the returning Vets from the wars getting much help here. Yes he has been there along time, but that dont mean that he has helped. Tell what you see and I might stay home election day and not vote against this great man you talk of ?

  • viewer wrote on February 04, 2013 02:45 PM :

    And if I lived in Nevada I would ask the same thing of Sen Reid. Im for 12 year limit on federal offices. 2 terms as a senator or 6 as congressmen. Career politicians is a big part of the problem. They have sold us out. GOP and DEMS

  • Scott wrote on February 04, 2013 08:45 PM :

    Viewer here is a great example “Fort Knox”! It was on a base closure list before he lobbied to increase it to what it is now. Also a lot of the examples you gave are state responsibilities. I will give the one on the bridge situation but couldnt you say the same thing about John Yarmuth?

  • viewer wrote on February 05, 2013 06:54 AM :

    Fort Knox is a good one. Mitch did help with it. There is a lot I wish Yarmuth would do better for Ky aswell. Im against career politicians.

  • Kay wrote on February 07, 2013 11:19 AM :

    Mitch McConnell is running SCARED

    “It’s the earliest McConnell has ever set up a full-fledged campaign infrastructure for a re-election bid. And perhaps underscoring how difficult McConnell envisions his run for a sixth term to be”

  • Kay wrote on February 07, 2013 11:57 AM :

    To: Viewer and Scott

    Mitch McConnell did not do anything to stop Fort Knox closing. Nothing … he did nothing.

    1988 President Ronald Reagan:
    Kentucky lost more than 1,000 military and civilian contract employees at Fort Knox – McConnell did NOTHING to stop that.

    1991 President HW Bush:
    Fort Knox began losing soldiers in a cutbacks related to base closings. – McConnell did NOTHING to stop that.

    2002 President GW Bush:
    Donald Rumsfeld said he would give a list of base closings in 2005.

    2005 President GW Bush:
    Fort Knox was not on Rumsfeld’s list.

    Therefore, Scott (above) is not correct when he claims that Fort Knox was on the list, as it was not on the list. And thanks goes to retired Brig. Gen. James E. Shane Jr not Mitch McConnell.

    Between 2002-2005 Mitch McConnell did NOTHING to help retired Brig. Gen. James E. Shane Jr revamp Fort Knox in his effort to stop Fort Knox from being on the list.

    My point: You are both not correct when you claim that McConnell kept Fort Knox from getting on the list … since Fort Knox was never on the list thanks to retired Brig. Gen. James E. Shane Jr.

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