The president of the Louisville Tea Party says local members could endorse Senate Republican candidate Matt Bevin over incumbent Mitch McConnell in the GOP primary after she was featured in an online attack ad.
A web ad released by the McConnell campaign this week questioned Bevin’s conservative credentials and affiliation with the Tea Party.
The online spot also points out Bevin has donated to Democrats, namely $500 to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer in his 2010 primary battle. It shows he gave another $250 to Wendy Caswell, who is a registered Democrat but also a founder and current president of the Tea Party in Louisville.
Caswell ran for state House last year. She says the spot is misleading because she ran as a fiscal conservative with no Republican in the race, adding McConnell is alienating local Tea Party members.
“I don’t know how you can make an ad that in the beginning says Bevin has never supported the Tea Party and then in the next instance show my face and I’m the president of the Tea Party. That’s pretty contradictory,” she says. “I was really surprised, but this certainly isn’t the way to get the Tea Party involved or excited about your election.”
Thus far the Tea Party movement in the state has been decidedly behind Bevin, with a group of over a dozen groups under the United Kentucky Tea Party backing him over McConnell.
But the GOP leader retains the support of fellow Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and was endorsed by the former vice president of the Louisville Tea Party last month.
McConnell aides point out that Caswell previously wrote in a February newsletter about meeting with a leaders from the now defunct liberal super PAC Progress Kentucky. In that message to Tea Party members, Caswell said she agreed with the group on several issues.
The McConnell campaign wants to keep the focus on the Bevin attacks, which have among other charges argues he “effectively supported John Kerry” for president by voting for Constitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka over President George W. Bush in 2004.
McConnell supporters have written that demonstrates Bevin is “outside the mainstream” and is not a true Republican , but rather a fringe candidate.
However, by putting Caswell in the attack ad the McConnell camp has aroused further ire from the Tea Party that was already upset with his leadership. Supporters points out Caswell has been elected president of the Louisville chapter twice, and members have backed her leadership despite party registration.
The web ad could push members of state’s largest Tea Party group more in Bevin’s corner, Caswell says.
“We really like to base our endorsement on our members. We host candidate forums and stuff like that. So we’ll still go through the process that we usually go through,” she says. “But obviously it’s going to effect some of these voters who are big supporters of the Tea Party and its president.”
Asked to comment on its criticism of Bevin’s contributions to Caswell’s candidacy last year, McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore sent the following statement.
“The fact is Matt Bevin’s biggest supporters are partisan Democrats who wish to eliminate Mitch McConnell from the Senate in order to implement the Obama agenda,” she says.