By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Matt Bevin called asked reporters during a Monday press conference to focus their campaign coverage on jobs but he mostly talked about Mitch McConnell.
Bevin, the Louisville investment manager, is challenging McConnell, the five-term Republican incumbent U.S. Senator in the May 20 primary.
His frustration with reporters’ continued focus on his statements that he didn’t realize an event he attended a month ago in Corbin was a cockfighting rally was clearly on display. An investigative report by John Boel of WAVE-TV showed Bevin was on hand at the event when another speaker made clear it was to support legalizing cockfighting.
Bevin declined to answer a question about the event Monday, telling reporters they should focus on the important issues in the race – the economy and an out-of-control government.
He tried to make hay out of an awkward response McConnell gave last week to a question posed by the editor of the Beattyville Enterprise about what McConnell is doing to bring jobs to southeastern Kentucky. The paper reported McConnell responded, “That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.”
McConnell said later his comments “got lost in translation,” but Alison Lundergan Grimes, the likely Democratic nominee, seized on the comment and Bevin did the same Monday.
“I think people were rightly offended by that,” Bevin said. “Mitch McConnell seems to be focused on one job and one job only and that’s keeping his own. And I think the people of Kentucky are rightfully weary of this.”
He said he’s the only candidate in the race “who truly understands what it’s like to create jobs,” ticking off a number of businesses he’s invested in or founded. “I’m the only one in this race who’s created jobs that the taxpayer hasn’t paid for. ”
He promised to release his own detailed, specific job plan on Thursday during a visit to Hazard. Then he launched into attacks on McConnell for negative ads and attacks and portrayed the Senate Minority Leader as complicit in the growth of the national debt and failure to halt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.”
He accused McConnell of voting for debt ceiling increases and for crafting a deal with Vice President Joe Biden to avoid a fiscal cliff but which Bevin said “raised taxes for 80 percent of Kentuckians.” McConnell contends the deal prevented tax increases on 99 percent of working Kentuckians.
The compromise avoided the expiration of all of the so-called Bush tax cuts, enacted 10 years ago with a sunset provision. The deal allowed tax rates to increase on the top income bracket but froze the cuts on lower income groups. However, it also allowed the expiration of a 2 percent cut in payroll taxes – those which fund social security and Medicare – which was part of the stimulus, not contained in the Bush tax cuts. If there had been no deal, taxes would have increased on all income groups on Jan. 1, 2013.
Bevin said that made no difference – the deal increased payroll taxes for most Kentuckians.
Bevin said McConnell’s charges that Bevin hasn’t been truthful with voters about the cockfighting event, a course he took on the MIT campus and his position on the bailout of financial credit institutions are all untrue.
“The only lie you’ve been told is what Mitch McConnell has told you,” an obviously annoyed Bevin said.
Allison Moore, McConnell’s campaign spokeswoman, accused Bevin of lying.
“It’s downright offensive that he thinks he can just continue lying to our face,” Moore said. “It says a lot about the character of a person when he’s caught intentionally deceiving Kentuckians instead of admitting his mistakes, he attacks everyone else for the state of his candidacy.”
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.