LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- As the Republican U.S. Senate primary heats up between five-term incumbent Mitch McConnell and Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, Kentucky's junior Senator Rand Paul is sticking by his endorsement of McConnell.
"About a year ago, I endorsed Sen. McConnell," Paul explained to reporters, "and I'm going to stick with that. I support Sen McConnell. I think he has done a good job for Kentucky."
Paul, however, declined to criticize Bevin for entering the race.
"Running for office is a very personal decision and I think debate and contrast is good," Paul told the Louisville Forum gathering at Vincenzo's Restaurant, "so I don't begrudge anybody running for office."
Paul's comments came five days after Jesse Benton, a former Paul aide and now McConnell's campaign manager, explained in a WHAS11 interview that he didn't mean it when he said in a secretly recorded January phone call that he was holding his nose while working for McConnell.
The flap has underscored tension in the tea party. Louisville Metro Councilwoman Marilyn Parker said the tea party is split on the McConnell vs. Bevin primary. Parker stopped short of officially endorsing McConnell.
Parker said although Bevin is raising a lot of good questions, McConnell is an ally in a powerful position to help tea party causes.
She refuted Bevin's argument that McConnell is not conservative enough to represent Kentucky in the U.S. Senate.
"I think he's conservative enough to stay in the Senate and lead the country," Parker said. "But I'm going to pull for whoever that conservative Republican candidate is, because I think we have big issues."