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.
“The reality is McConnell is bringing this issue up as a distraction,” he said. “It’s a smoke screen for the fact that he is a liberal, big government, bailout guy. He’s the king of the bailouts. And it’s ironic that the master of the bailouts would try to distract people with this nonsense.”
Bevin’s entry into the race comes after months of speculation that a self-styled tea party candidate would challenge McConnell in 2014. While Bevin praised members of the tea party movement on Wednesday, he came short of describing himself as a candidate from the movement.
“You asked earlier about my association with the tea party. I am not the tea party candidate. I’m not even sure such a thing actually exists,” Bevin said.
He added: “I’m running as a Republican. I’ve been a registered Republican my entire life.”
“But the fact of the matter is this: this race can not be won in this state without the support of the people who consider themselves members of the tea party,” he said. “These are good people. These are the leaders and pillars of their communities. These are the people who actually create the wealth of our state and of this nation.”
While junior Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has already endorsed McConnell in the race, Bevin said many of Paul’s supporters are already backing him.
“The people who propelled Rand Paul into his Senate seat are the very same people who have already coalesced behind this effort and have encouraged and supported me in my exploration of this to this point,” he said.
Bevin, a veteran who has never run for office before, says he never “never aspired to be a politician.”
“But I do fear for the future of this country,” he continued. “I have nine children. I worry that the America that they’re going to be inheriting is a fraction of the one you and I have grown up in. And that concerns me. And it concerns the people of this state. I mean, people do not feel that McConnell represents Kentucky anymore. They don’t feel that he’s one of us. And I agree.”