TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Mitch McConnell’s campaign has called his Republican primary opponent Matt Bevin a “minor nuisance” and McConnell never mentioned Bevin by name Saturday at the Fancy Farm Picnic political speaking event.
But first thing Monday, McConnell’s campaign was up with an ad “Matt ‘Bailout’ Bevin,” saying Bevin is not a Kentucky conservative and isn’t being truthful about tax problems his company and he personally has suffered in the past.
It’s not the first time the McConnell campaign has leveled the charge about Bevin accepting a government grant to rebuild a family business in Connecticut after it burned and alleging the company had tax liens against it.
When Bevin announced he was running, he told reporters, “I have no tax delinquency problem nor have I ever.” Monday’s ad shows him saying that but goes on to say “his business failed to pay taxes at least eight times and was the number one tax delinquent. He also failed to pay taxes on his million dollar home in Maine.”
Bevin spokeswoman, Sarah Durand, reiterated previous statements about the tax liens on the company, saying the tax liens against Bevin Brothers, the company which manufactures Salvation Army bells, existed before Bevin took control of the company and he then promptly paid them off.
“This is typical Mitch McConnell smear tactics because he is too afraid to defend his record of voting for bailouts, amnesty, tax increases, energy mandates, massive new government spending, debt limit increase and congressional pay increases,” Durand said. “Mitch McConnell cannot run from his big-government record forever.”
Durand didn’t directly address the allegation about the tax lien on the Maine home but a person close to his campaign said the original tax bill wasn’t delivered to Bevin and that he paid it when he learned of it.
McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton said Bevin “has a troubling pattern of telling people whatever they want to hear and misrepresenting who he is.
“Having tax problems back east may or may not disqualify someone from running for office in Kentucky, but lying about it certainly does,” Benton said.
Durand’s response uses themes Bevin has invoked since he announced he’s running and which he invoked at Fancy Farm Saturday, during the raucous stump speeches which have become political tradition in Kentucky and which this year drew national attention.
While this year’s Fancy Farm lacked some of the choreographed theatrics of other years — no one was dressed in costumes to make fun of another candidate — the crowd for the stump speeches was one of the largest in years.
Bevin’s supporters were heavily outnumbered but tried to make up for it by ringing bells like those made by Bevin Brothers. That cued up Bevin to say: “Let me tell you something Senator: ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you.”
Meanwhile McConnell supporters were there in large numbers, all decked out in red “TeamMitch” t-shirts and chanting, “We Want Mitch! We Want Mitch!”
A few of them held aloft a placard with Barack Obama’s face on one side and Grimes’ on the other.
Meanwhile, Grimes’ supporters had signs which said, “Ditch Mitch” or “It’s Time To Switch.” Others had signs with Grimes’ photo and her statement to McConnell in a campaign video that “I don’t scare easy.” A couple of others had signs with a picture of McConnell peaking around letters which spelled out “Despicable Mitch.”
One of the best lines of the day, however, came from emcee Ferrell Wellman, host of KET’s Comment on Kentucky. Before Wellman began introducing political speakers he laid out the ground rules and then he addressed the crowd directly.
“Are you going to be on your best behavior?” Wellman asked.
The crowd responded heartily: “NOOOO!!”
“That’s what I thought,” said Wellman, never breaking stride and proceeding to introduce the first speaker.
In other words, it was just what is expected at Fancy Farm.
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.