Politics
              Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is surrounded by reporters as he returns to his office after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 15, 2013. The Senate Democrats that make up the majority and the Republicans that comprise the minority are gathering in a rare closed-door meeting in the Old Senate Chamber for a showdown over presidential nominees that have been blocked by a GOP filibuster. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Mitch McConnell’s primary opponent comes out swinging

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

The Kentucky businessman who launched a Republican primary challenge against Mitch McConnell on Wednesday told The Daily Caller he’s running because conservatives have a “tremendous level of dissatisfaction” with the Senate minority leader.

“There’s a tremendous level of dissatisfaction with the fact that for 30 years, he’s been just a big government guy,” Matt Bevin said of McConnell. “He votes for every bailout, he votes for every piece of pork, he is a huge fan of earmarking — it has been temporarily banned, as you know — but folks like Mitch McConnell have made a career of greasing the wheels for themselves and for others.”

During a phone interview an hour before he formally announced his campaign at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfurt, Bevin also laid the groundwork for the argument that McConnell is more concerned with his leadership role in Washington than in representing Kentucky.

“I live in the same town as the man, and I’ve literally never seen him one time,” Bevin said of McConnell. “Ever. And it’s not like we move in entirely different worlds. I’ve never seen him one time, except when he was speaking at a political event. Fifteen years. In the same town in Kentucky. That’s odd. And I’m not alone in that.”

Bevin slammed McConnell as a “big proponent of increased taxes,” a “proponent of pork barrel spending” and as “someone who doesn’t have a tremendous amount of respect for the constitution.”

“He’s been an unapologetic supporter of the Patriot Act,” Bevin said.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign is expected to get nasty. On Wednesday morning before Bevin’s launch, both his campaign and McConnell’s released TV ads within minutes of each other questioning the other candidate’s conservative credentials.

“McConnell has voted for higher taxes, bailouts, debt ceiling increases, congressional pay raises, and liberal judges,” the announcer in Bevin’s ad states.

As for McConnell, his new ad slams “Bailout Bevin” for taking $200,000 in state government money last year after his Connecticut factory, which wasn’t insured, burned down.

“Matt Bevin says he’s a conservative businessman, but when his Connecticut business needed help, Bevin took $200,000 in taxpayer bailouts,” the ad says.

Asked to respond to that ad, which claims Bevin is “not a Kentucky Conservative,” the businessman said that he’s “far more conservative and have spent far more time in Kentucky in the last 15 years than Sen. McConnell has.”

“With respect to a bailout, it’s interesting that a guy who has voted for literally a trillion dollars worth of bailouts for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Wall Street banks, etc., is taking issue with the fact that the people of a town and a state wanted to do something for a business that had burned down, that is historic, that is the oldest family run business in their state, and wanted to gather around, rally around, and do what they could to ensure that those jobs were saved,” Bevin said. “That these employees were not dumped onto the public system.”

Bevin explained that state and local officials, wanting to save jobs, came up with the idea for the state grant to help rebuild the factory. “They were the ones who initiated it. I did not ask for this. I was not looking for it,” he said.