Kentucky U.S Senate candidate Matt Bevin beat incumbent Mitch McConnell in a straw poll conducted by the Boone County Republican Party.
The unscientific survey was held at the group’s gala on Thursday which featured libertarian speaker Judge Andrew Napolitano among others. Of the approximately 425 people who participated, Bevin won 85 percent compared to just 13 percent favoring McConnell.
Boone County GOP Chairman Rick Brueggermann says it is unclear if any solid prediction can be drawn from the results ahead of the May primary next year, but that members were eager to participate.
“It’s not random sampling, but it is sampling of those who wanted to come to the event. We had a full house so there was a lot of excitement. As far as predictions, I don’t know how indicative it will be of future results,” he says. “But certainly it was a surprising result that it was that weighted.”
The Boone County GOP is considered a Tea Party stronghold, but the group declined to endorse Bevin over McConnell at a recent meeting attended by both campaigns.
Still, Bevin, a Louisville investor, says the straw poll results demonstrate voters are responding to his message of fiscal responsibility and conservative values.
“It is increasingly clear that Mitch McConnell’s iron fist in Republican state politics is rusting,” he says. “I look forward to building on our statewide momentum in the weeks and months ahead. We, the people, will win this race.”
McConnell supporters point out that Bevin purchased many seats at the gala—as did other elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul—while the senator did not buy any tickets for the event. The Bevin camp says their candidate bought a single table, which is 10 tickets in total.
Boone County is a vital part of any GOP turnout and has the fourth highest number of registered Republican voters the state.
“I think Boone County is extremely important,” says Brueggermann. “I think Northern Kentucky as a whole is very important to any statewide race, especially in Republican primaries in particular.”
The McConnell campaign did not return a request for comment.