Kentucky tea party leaders seek to retire senator
Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Wednesday, August 29, 2012. (Harry E. Walker/MCT)
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Many of Kentucky’s “tea party” leaders are plotting a strategy to defeat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary, a spokesman for a group calling itself the United Kentucky Tea Party said Tuesday.
Tea party groups in the state are so dissatisfied with McConnell that “we are working on a battle plan with the ultimate goal to retire him next year,” said John T. Kemper III of Lexington, a spokesman for the group.
Kemper’s comment came a day after the group, which describes itself as a roundtable of leaders from more than a dozen tea Party proups in Kentucky, issued a news release warning McConnell that “we will not allow our message or movement to be co-opted for political purposes.”
Kemper, a developer who lost a bid for state auditor in 2011 and a bid for Congress in 2010, would not identify any potential opponent for McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, but acknowledged that he is “probably on a short list of folks.”
Meanwhile, an out-of-state Super PAC expressed interest in helping “the right candidate” defeat McConnell. Last year, Liberty For All spent almost $700,000 to help elect Republican Thomas Massie to Northern Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District seat.
Preston Bates, executive director of Liberty For All, said in an email Tuesday that McConnell is “anything but a tea partier” and is “that special politician who could unite libertarians, independents, anti-war Democrats, everyone” against him.
“Should the right candidate emerge — be they Republican, Democrat, or Independent — Liberty For All will remain committed to electing those dedicated to more civil liberties, more economic freedom, and freeing America from corporate influence,” Bates said.
Liberty for All is primarily funded by John Ramsey, a college student from Nacogdoches, Texas, who is armed with an inherited fortune.
McConnell, who has represented Kentucky since 1985, is seeking re-election next year. So far, no one has announced to challenge him. He already has a $7 million campaign war chest and the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a tea party darling.
Concern about McConnell by several tea party members intensified early this year after McConnell successfully brokered a fiscal cliff deal that killed planned income tax hikes on most Americans but postponed deep federal spending cuts.
Cathy Flaig, former president of the Northern Kentucky Tea Party, which covers Boone, Kenton, Campbell and Grant counties, said Tuesday her group “willingly signed” the news release issued by the United Kentucky Tea Party.
“Truth be told, most tea party members I know in Kentucky are polite to Sen. McConnell but not enthusiastic at all about him,” said Flaig. “My question is, what has he done for Kentucky?”