The campaign to re-elect Senator Mitch McConnell isn’t giving any ground in its Republican primary battle with Matt Bevin over who is the true Kentucky conservative.
Earlier this week, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Forgy, a longtime McConnell critic, endorsed Bevin in next year’s election.
It was a good sign for Bevin’s candidacy to pick up an “old guard” GOP nominee with roots in the state outside of the Tea Party world. The Louisville investor does have the backing of state Tea Party groups, but few well-known Republicans or officials.
In response, McConnell’s team bashed Forgy for failing to be faithful to the GOP with his own pocketbook.
“Kentucky conservatives have disagreed a lot with Mr. Forgy in recent years including his financial support for liberal Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s campaign. Larry’s support for Matt Bevin is consistent with his efforts to protect Harry Reid’s majority,” says Allison Moore, McConnell’s campaign spokeswoman.
Five years ago, Forgy admitted giving Reid $1,000 in a 2008 interview with the conservative news site CNSNews.com. The two were classmates at George Washington University, and Forgy explained the donation was based on their personal friendship.
“Anybody who tries to contend that somehow or another I’m a Democrat needs to read up a little bit,” he said at the time.
The McConnell’s campaign tactic to spotlight Forgy’s donation to Reid fits with reports that Kentucky Republicans have been threatened with political “death” if they support Bevin. Other top GOP names may have gotten the message to at the very least remain neutral until after the primary election.
“I’m not going to support anybody in the primary, but I’ll support whoever wins,” says Republican Phil Moffett, who for governor with heavy Tea Party support in 2011.
That may come as a surprise to some, given Moffett had said previously was vetting both McConnell and Bevin before making a decision publicly. But now that Moffett is running for state House next year against a more establishment candidate he’s going to keep the decision between him and the voting booth.
“I had a conversation with both campaigns and told them I’ll support whoever wins the primary,” he says. “The particular reason, I think I did a really good race that stuck to the issue and I gained the confidence of both sides. For me to get involved in a race like this it would really just upset one side or the other. I’m going to sit back and watch it happen.”