Details emerging about Matt Bevin, potential challenger to McConnell

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 21, 2013 at 7:36 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 22 at 1:12 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Political newcomer Matt Bevin previously considered running for Congress against U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth prior to his current contemplation of challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary, GOP insiders disclosed to WHAS11.

After the Louisville businessman's name surfaced on Monday as a potential candidate, Bevin has stressed to WHAS11 that he is "simply listening" to those interested in him running.  Bevin said he has met with fellow Republicans, tea party members and independent voters.

"Every single one of them has reasons for feeling frustrated with their current representation in Washington," Bevin told WHAS11.

"He's asked us what kind of problems we have with McConnell, what do we like about McConnell," said Sarah Durand, the Louisville Tea Party President, "What are the challenges involved in mounting a primary challenge against McConnell? Do we think it's a good idea? Do we think it's worth the time and effort?"

Several significant tea party figures in Kentucky have expressed frustration with Bevin's leap into the McConnell conversation.

"I have no knowledge of him participating in any Tea Party events in Kentucky," John T. Kemper, the spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party, told The Hill, "We’re leery of outside folks coming in saying they’re Tea Party when they don’t have a Tea Party background."

"I hope nobody's feelings are hurt if a candidate hasn't had a chance to talk to everybody yet," Durand said when asked about Kemper's concerns.  

"Several people are interested in running," Durand added.  "A lot of people don't want their names out there yet."

"My responsibility is to protect the credibility of the United Kentucky Tea Party," Kemper told WHAS11.  "I have studied the recent losses of ALL the so called Tea party candidates, what they did correctly and what they did wrong. Akin and Mourdock were BOTH establishment Republican players who slapped a Tea party label on themselves and ran.  We are taking measures to avoid repeating the previous mistakes of other campaigns."

Kentucky tea party activists are also questioning whether a true tea partier would accept $100,000 in government grants.  Bevin used the money to help rebuild his family's Connecticut bell factory, Bevin Brothers Manufacturing, after a factory fire.

“Mr. Bevin’s $100K in state grants sounds like a bailout to me," reads a facebook post by Alan Brown Jr., president of the Nelson County Tea Party.  "Isn’t opposition to bailouts what brought so many in the Tea Parties together in the first place? And $12K to (the Republican Party of Kentucky)....yeah, I’m not getting the Tea Party vibe."

Bevin, however, stressed fiscal conservatism in an e-mail from Ethiopia, where he is working on security at orphanages and improving veterinary science.  He described the concerns of Kentuckians with whom he has discussed his potential candidacy.

"Some are angry about the decades of spending like a drunken sailor at future tax payers expense.  Others wonder exactly how long is long enough for the same person to be representing them," Bevin wrote. "Still others think that the 'good ole boy' network in Washington is more the problem than the solution."

"The list goes on," Bevin continued.  "I am simply listening."

Bevin suggested that WHAS11 view a 2009 interview on Metro TV for an idea of what makes him tick.

"I always assume I'm going to win," Bevin said in the interview.  "I always assume I'm going to succeed."

Bevin is a partner in a Louisville hedge fund and a father of nine.

"I would hope that people would see me as a person of integrity, as someone who embodies Christian values, as a man of principle.  Somebody to be trusted," Bevin said in the 2009 interview.

A primary challenge would have to be mounted without the support of Kentucky tea party favorite, Sen. Rand Paul (R), who is  endorsing McConnell.

"I haven't had any discussions with (Bevin) or others about it," Paul said on Wednesday, "other than to say that I have heard the same rumors."

Paul was asked why McConnell appears to lack support among tea party members.

"You know, I don't know if I have an answer, really," Paul responded.

On Thursday, McConnell and Paul were two of only seven U.S. Senators to receive a 100% rating defending liberty from the American Conservative Union.

"Right now, (McConnell is) doing a great job," Durand said.  If he had voted in the last thirty years how he has voted in the
last thirty days, everybody would be very happy with him."

Bevin and tea partiers have a decision to make -- do they challenge McConnell in a primary if it only results in weakening the senator in the general election?

"I'm not really sure yet if its a good idea to challenge McConnell because you don't want to end up with a Democrat." Durand said.

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