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Tea party strains to name McConnell challenger

by Joe Arnold


Posted on June 20, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 21 at 1:10 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The tea party in Kentucky may be united in protest, but not so much on the 2014 U.S. Senate race.

Two leading tea party activists, Lexington's John Kemper and Nicholasville's David Adams appear to be on different pages as both seek to identify a Republican primary challenger to five-term incumbent Mitch McConnell.  However strong the tea party movement is in Kentucky, the rift indicates a lack of cohesion among tea party supporters.

Adams has repeatedly promised a formidable challenger will emerge.

Yet, in an interview with WHAS11, Kemper said Adams' efforts to identify a candidate are not in coordination with the United Kentucky Tea Party's selection process.

"We do work together on issues," Kemper said.  "We don't see a lot of him at the tea party leader meetings and things like that."

Yet, Adams -- who held the title of campaign manager until just after Rand Paul's 2010 Senate primary win -- suggests he has a lead role in naming a McConnell challenger but doesn't align himself too closely with any one tea party group so he can work better with all of them.

"We're working through a process now to create a winning coalition," Adams told WHAS11.

"Perfection in politics is too rare to even worry about pursuing, so we expect little bumps and just move on," Adams continued.  "We will come out of this with no more than one top tier Republican opponent for the long time, big government incumbent."
"One thing we know is that a three way primary probably hands Sen. McConnell a re-election bid," Kemper said.

Despite Richard Mourdock's 2012 Senate campaign's collapse in Indiana, Kemper points to Mourdock as an example of tea party success because he defeated six-term incumbent Republican Richard Lugar in the GOP primary.

"So, the process now is trying to weed out who that candidate is who has the best opportunity to retire Sen. McConnell," Kemper said.

Some tea party leaders, including Louisville Tea Party President Sarah Durand, have warned that weakening Mitch McConnell in a Republican primary would only help Democrats.