By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Some Kentucky tea party activists aren’t happy with Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, and his choice of a campaign manager who previously worked for Sen. Rand Paul and his father, Ron Paul, isn’t going to change their minds.
John Kemper, a Lexington homebuilder and an unsuccessful candidate in Republican primaries for Congress in 2010 and state auditor in 2011, sent out a news release Monday night announcing Kentucky tea party groups “will not allow our message or movement to be co-opted for political purposes.”
The news release lists 13 local tea party organizations and said McConnell and the Republican Party of Kentucky are misrepresenting themselves as sympathetic to tea party groups.
McConnell hasn’t always endeared himself to those on the right because of his leadership position and history of stepping into congressional impasses to work out a compromise. Most recently, McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden brokered a deal to increase taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year and avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, figures to be a key target for Democrats in 2014 who would like to see him weakened by a primary challenge.
Last fall McConnell hired Jesse Benton as his campaign manager. Benton managed Ron Paul’s unsuccessful run for president and Rand Paul’s successful 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. The hiring was viewed as a way to pacify tea party discontent and head off a potential 2014 primary challenge.
Kemper said that hasn’t persuaded some tea party activists or precluded a primary challenger.
“The fiscal cliff deal was kind of the last straw for our member groups,” Kemper said. “And the misrepresentation of Jesse Benton, as if he represents tea party folks, bothers some people.”
Benton, however, said McConnell is a tea party ally.
“Leader McConnell is a great friend of the Kentucky tea parties and is committed to giving them a seat at the table and bringing their voices to Washington,” Benton said in a statement.
“I have been taking that message to grassroots groups all over the state and have had a wonderful reception,” he said.
Kemper said he might challenge McConnell himself.
“I’m probably on a short list of potential candidates,” Kemper said. He said a well-funded candidate could prove formidable and there are groups interested in funding a challenge.
Preston Bates, executive director of the Liberty for All PAC, which supported new 4th District Republican Congressman Thomas Massie in a Republican primary last year, said the PAC might consider funding the right challenger.
“We haven’t closed the door on doing something in this Senate race,” Bates said. “I personally tend to agree with the sentiments in the press release, but we didn’t have any official involvement.”
Kemper doesn’t dispute the Pauls apparently gave their blessing to Benton going to work for McConnell or that Rand Paul has openly been supportive of McConnell.
“Rand Paul remains enormously popular with the tea party,” Kemper said. “Some have problems with his close association with Senator McConnell over the past year.”
Not all tea party groups in Kentucky signed onto the news release.
Sally O’Boyle said members of the Lexington tea party found out about the news release last weekend.
“We weren’t consulted,” O’Boyle said. “None of us are big fans of Mitch McConnell, but we’re huge Rand Paul supporters and McConnell has been very good to Paul. And lately (McConnell) has done a few things we think are better.”
Jenean Hampton, chairwoman of the Bowling Green SOKY tea party, said the news release was approved by the group’s steering committee.
RONNIE ELLIS is based in Frankfort and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.
By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
- State News
Grimes comes out firing on McConnell
Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in this fall’s elections, went after the five-term incumbent in a speech here to a convention of local county officials.
Conway, Comer address judge-execs
It might have been a preview of next year’s Kentucky governor’s election — but county officials here for a convention probably didn’t expect one likely candidate to endorse a potential opponent.
McConnell, Grimes parade cases
Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes know a good place to look for votes when they see it.
McConnell, Grimes disagree on contraception case
Kentucky’s Republican congressman praised Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations may opt out of a requirement to provide employees contraceptive coverage through insurance plans.
Beshear sings praises of Affordable Care Act
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told a Washington conference Tuesday that Kentucky’s embrace of the Affordable Care Act has been “life-changing” for thousands of Kentucky enrollees and “transformative” for Kentucky.
Kentucky actually fares well under new EPA regs
Kentucky politicians and the coal industry howled about the latest installment of greenhouse gas emission regulations issued last week by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
New EPA C02 regs examined
Given their complexity and potential impact in coal-dependent states like Kentucky, there’s considerable confusion about new carbon emission regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.
State budget officials predict ‘significant shortfall’
With only 20 days left in the 2014 fiscal year, state budget officials announced Tuesday Kentucky faces an “inevitable” and “significant” revenue shortfall in both the General and Road Funds.
Grimes ad blasts Obama for coal policies
Mitch McConnell is no longer the only U.S. Senate candidate running against Democratic President Barack Obama.
Legislative leaders blast carbon regs
President Barack Obama’s efforts to rein in carbon emissions, blamed by science for changes in the climate, continues to draw harsh criticism from both political parties in Kentucky.
- More State News Headlines
- Grimes comes out firing on McConnell