LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Three years after leading Kentucky's tea party revolution into a senate election win over a Mitch McConnell-endorsed candidate, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul on Monday reiterated his endorsement for McConnell in the 2014 race, despite the entry of tea party candidate Matt Bevin into the Republican primary.
"I'm not giving (Bevin) encouragement or discouragement," Paul said. "It's a free country and anybody who wants to run, can. I have endorsed Sen. McConnell though."
Paul was asked about his response to a WHAS11 question in March when he said he would discourage a tea party challenge to McConnell.
"What I would say is that there are a lot of races you can choose from," Paul said to reporters after a speech to the VFW national convention in Louisville. "There are a lot of different places you can throw your effort your money and your time. And I think that open seats are better places for the tea party to work."
As WHAS11 first reported Friday, Bevin plans to announce his senate campaign this week. Monday morning, a media advisory revealed that Bevin, a Louisville investment adviser, plans announcements in Frankfort, Louisville and Newport on Wednesday with five more stops Thursday and Friday.
Meanwhile, Bevin's burgeoning campaign is firing back at McConnell after the five-term incumbent's campaign referred to Bevin as an "east coast con man." After a fire destroyed his family's five-generation bell manufacturing factory in Connecticut
last year, Bevin accepted a $100,000 state grant to help rebuild. The funds were tied to restoring jobs to the factory, which employed about 12 full time workers before the May, 2012 fire.
"Mitch McConnell is bringing up the loan Matt received to help rebuild his factory because McConnell doesn't want to talk about all the bailouts in his voting record," said Bevin spokeswoman Sarah Durand, "such as the Wall Street bailout and the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."
"If Mitch McConnell had ever run a business or worked in the private sector, he would recognize what a commendable thing Matt did: He took a nearly bankrupt company, turned it around, saved American jobs and kept a historic bell manufacturing company in America," Durand, the Louisville Tea Party President continued. "Sadly, Mitch McConnell is so out of touch, he doesn’t even understand that saving American jobs is a good thing."
"Mathew Griswold Bevin is not a Kentucky Conservative, he is merely an East Coast con man," said McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton in a statement on Friday. "While it is sad to see someone who claims to be a Republican doing Barack Obama's bidding, his campaign is nothing more than a nuisance. Mitch McConnell will never waiver is his fight for our Kentucky values."
Also Monday, a letter undersigned by 15 local tea party groups petitioned two national tea party groups, The Tea Party.Net and Tea Party Nation, to rescind their endorsements of McConnell.
"Senator McConnell’s Progressive Liberal voting record, his absolute iron fisted rule over the Republican Party in Kentucky and his willingness to roll over and cede power to President Obama and the Liberals in Washington, prove that he is no friend to the American people or the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky," the letter says.
"Your endorsement undermines the work of the real grassroots Tea Party organizations all over Kentucky," the letter continues. "Had you taken the time to reach out to us, you would have learned that the Tea Parties in Kentucky do NOT support Senator McConnell’s campaign."
Because Bevin is not a sitting office holder, he has not been invited to speak at the Fancy Farm political speeches at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Graves County on August 3.