While establishment Republicans may still rule the day, the Tea Party is bent on taking down the king, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
The five-term incumbent is waging two wars to hang on to his seat. The first battle, culminating on May 20, has McConnell in a primary contest with Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. Hoping he doesn’t survive to fight in the general election, Tea Party groups across Kentucky are rallying the troops ahead of the May 20 primary.
“When was the last time you saw a town hall here in Kentucky with Senator McConnell where he actually answered questions? He shows up at Lincoln Day dinners, gives his speech, and leaves," asserts Scott Hofstra with the United Kentucky Tea Party. "He’s not accountable to us and doesn’t want to be. We deserve better.”
Hofstra spoke recently in Elizabethtown to a group called the Central Kentucky Tea Party Patriots, a mix of mostly blue collar workers and retirees.
National Tea Party groups are mostly split in their support of McConnell and Bevin, but state and local groups are mostly rallying around Bevin, someone they call a “true conservative,” who they think can take the GOP back to its roots.
If Kentucky Republicans are sweating their party's U.S. Senate primary, they didn't show it Saturday night in Bowling Green.
At the 2014 Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner, southern Kentucky Republicans rallied behind U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing a primary challenge by Tea Party activist Matt Bevin.
Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie told WKU Public Radio he believes the GOP will be able to unite before the November general election. The Warren County Republican said it’s not the first time a well-known incumbent has faced a primary.
“Hopefully what you can do is that people can come back together," Guthrie said. "And that’s what you hope will happen—people will air out their views. You know, primaries can be tricky, there’s absolutely no doubt about it, because somebody’s going to win, and somebody’s not going to win.”
Senator McConnell took the stage Saturday night and told the audience that he believes he’ll return to Washington next year as Senate Majority Leader. Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats to control the chamber.
Tennessee Tea Party activists are actively vetting potential candidates who would challenge Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from the right.
Later this month, those wanting to take on Alexander in next year’s GOP primary will address tea party activists in Nashville. The Tennessean reports that Nashville Tea Party President Ben Cunningham says a “very serious process” is underway to find a consensus Tea Party challenger to take on Alexander in 2014.
It’s the latest example of the Tea Party challenging GOP incumbents it believes are not sufficiently conservative. The tactic has backfired in some states, including Indiana, where the Tea Party-backed Richard Mourdock knocked off longtime Republican moderate Richard Lugar in the 2012 primary, only to lose to Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election later that year.
Some potential Tea Party challengers to Alexander are former GOP state representative and senator Tim Burchett, former chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party Kevin Kookogey, and Brenda Lenard, who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Republican Sen. Bob Corker last year.
Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator is trying to reach out to Tea Party groups as he seeks another six-year term in Washington.
Mitch McConnell needs to shore up support on the Republican right in order to fend off a primary challenge next year. Sen. McConnell knew he would have a challenge from Democrats in 2014. What he was hoping to avoid was a primary challenge from a fellow Republican.
But that’s exactly what he has now, following Louisville investment advisor Matt Bevin’s entrance into the race. Bevin is officially announcing Wednesday that he will seek the GOP Senate nomination, creating a primary fight for McConnell.
McConnell isn't taking the news lying down.
Politico reports McConnell played host to the Tea Party caucus Tuesday in Washington, at a celebration honoring the birthday of former Senator Bob Dole. McConnell has had a strained relationship with the Tea Party, at first largely ignoring the movement, and then trying to mend fences when the Tea Party showed it had become a major powerbroker within the GOP.
With the news that more than a dozen tea party groups are actively recruiting a GOP candidate to run against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014, it’s worth taking a look at how Kentucky tea party-endorsed candidates have fared in statewide or Congressional races.
Since forming in the run up to the 2010 mid-term elections, Kentucky's tea party has won more than a third of the races its challenged for prominent offices, and its candidates have won several primaries over Republican establishment candidates.
Politics makes strange bedfellows. That wise old adage is being proven once again in Kentucky, where some liberal activists and left-wing super PACs are telling Tea Party groups they'll support a conservative challenge against U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 GOP primary.
Politico reports the goal for liberals would be to "soften up" McConnell in the primary, in hopes that he would then be vulnerable against a strong Democratic challenger in the November general election.
No big-name Democratic challengers have thrown their hats into the ring yet, with only Owensboro home-builder Ed Marksberry so far committing to the race. Rumors have been swirling regarding a potential Senate run by Kentucky-born actress Ashley Judd, but Judd recently said she is undecided about entering the race.
McConnell finds himself taking heat from the right, with some Kentucky Tea Party groups accusing the GOP incumbent of being too moderate in recent negotiations over the fiscal cliff.
And a recent Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll shows 34% of those surveyed said they would vote against McConnell in 2014, with just 17% saying they'll vote for the Louisville Republican. Forty-four percent said they were undecided.
Activists said Thursday after a board meeting for the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange that they are supporting a bill to require legislative approval of the exchange, which was created by executive order of the governor.
Meanwhile, exchange executive director Carrie Banahan told board members that progress is being made in setting up a website that's supposed to make picking health insurance similar to buying an airline ticket from an online travel site. The site will allow consumers to compare costs and benefits.
Exchanges are a key part of the President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul. Banahan predicts about 300,000 people will purchase insurance through Kentucky's exchange.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell says the Tea Party has been good for the Republican Party. Critics of the Tea Party blame it for costing the GOP the majority in the U.S. Senate the past four years, citing high-profile losses in Delaware, Nevada and Indiana.
Last week, the leader of the Tea Party in the Senate, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, announced he was leaving to lead a think tank.
But McConnell says the Tea Party has done something important for the GOP -- it's energized the party.
An annual report that describes the state’s financial outlook shows that Kentucky has once again gone deeper into debt. The report, when compared with past years, shows the state added more than $110 million in debt during the last fiscal year.