FRANKFORT and LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Saying Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has lost touch with Kentuckians and their values, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin launched a Republican primary challenge on Wednesday in what would be an unprecedented primary defeat of a sitting party leader in Congress.
"We the people have come to take our nation back," Bevin told enthusiastic gatherings in Frankfort, Newport and Louisville. The investment adviser has five more campaign rollout announcements planned on Thursday and Friday.
"Take back our country from the elite professional career politicians that are destroying the very fabric of our nation," Bevin said in his speech.
Flanked by his wife and nine children, including four adopted from Africa, Bevin acknowledged he has an uphill fight. He argues Mitch McConnell doesn't fight hard enough against big government.
"The fact is, Mitch McConnell has been a proponent of big government bailouts, of faulty spending, of enlarging the size of government for far too long," Bevin said.
"I think he's absolutely flat out wrong," countered Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown). "Mitch McConnell has stood up to Barack Obama and does it everyday."
Thayer is among a number of key Republicans sticking by McConnell, including tea party favorites U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie. The Tea Party.Net and Tea Party Nation are also endorsing McConnell.
But a member of the coalition of Kentucky tea party groups that vetted candidates and selected Bevin said no one speaks for the tea party.
"For the Karl Roves and the establishment Republicans who tell us get on board, get on board, enough of that. we're done with that. I'm done with that," said Jenean Hampton of Bowling Green.
"For far too long we have allowed the elite in Washington DC to make decisions about our lives and what do we have to show for it?," Bevin said.
"Mitch McConnell is Kentucky's greatest advocate and he fights his heart out for our Commonwealth every day," McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement. "Mitch is working hard to bring all Kentuckians - Republicans, TEA Partiers, Independents and even Democrats - together to stand against the liberal Obama agenda in Washington. We are grateful for Mitch's broad support as we move forward to victory in November of 2014."
Bevin is running an ad castigating McConnell's voting record "for higher taxes, bailouts, debt ceiling increases, congressional pay raises, and liberal judges."
A McConnell ad also released on Wednesday takes aim at Bevin's record as a part-owner of two Connecticut businesses destroyed by fire in 2012. The ad describes $200,000 in forgivable government loans utilized to help rebuild the businesses as "taxpayer bailouts," and accuses Bevin as being a tax delinquent at those businesses.
"That is an absolute false statement," Bevin said when asked about the commercial. "but I have come to expect as much over the last thirty years from 'Mud Slingin' Mitch.'"
Bevin explained that he took over the family owned company after it fell into financial trouble and paid off the tax debts.
"The fact of the matter is, (McConnell) is never is willing to run on his own record," Bevin said.