FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Democratic Party has been using Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election bid as a catalyst to raise money even before a serious challenger gets into the race.
In a series of emails bashing McConnell last week, Gov. Steve Beshear and other party leaders called for financial donations to end the Republican floor leader's three-decade Senate career.
"For far too long, Kentucky families have suffered under the so-called 'representation' of Mitch McConnell in Washington," Beshear said in an email message. "And we've suffered the consequences — nasty partisan bickering, divisive political games, and an inability or unwillingness to get things done for the people of this nation and the people of this commonwealth."
Beshear went on to say Democrats will need money to support the eventual nominee.
McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton responded Tuesday that he expects conservative Democrats in the state to give "robust support" to McConnell because they support "his principled stands."
State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon said the results of the fundraising effort were "awesome," though he declined to say how much was raised. The intent was to increase contributions before last Sunday's first-quarter fundraising deadline. Financial reports detailing contributions from Jan. 1 through March 31 have to be submitted to the Federal Election Commission by April 15.
So far no major Democratic challenger has emerged to take on McConnell. Actress Ashley Judd, a former Kentucky resident announced last week that she would not run.
Several big-name Democrats, including Beshear, have already said they won't run against McConnell. However, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes hasn't ruled herself out as a potential challenger.
Grimes didn't take part in last week's fundraising effort. Spokeswoman Lynn Sowards Zellen said that was because Grimes was focusing on her legislative agenda when the groundwork was being laid for that fundraising effort.
Benton said the state's Democrats "are in a real box."
"They try to raise money by criticizing Leader McConnell for standing up to the bad ideas of national Democrats, like cap and trade, gun control and Obamacare. Yet so much of their base, along with the vast majority of Kentuckians, supports Mitch in his principled stands. That is why our campaign will receive robust support from conservative Democrats across the state who support Kentucky values, not Barrack Obama's values."
Democratic Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said in an email that it's time to send McConnell home.
"We all know Mitch McConnell's playbook — fight hard, fight nasty," Abramson said. "In his past campaigns, Mitch McConnell has done whatever it takes to win, and we should expect the same in 2014. The KDP needs resources to make sure Kentuckians know the truth about McConnell's record."
Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway charged that McConnell has lost touch with Kentuckians and that he is "a giant road block in Washington."
"Kentucky Democrats need to be able to show they will have the resources to fight back against everything Mitch is going to throw at our nominee," Conway said.