The cigarette did little to calm Rose Mudd Perkins.

She fumbled through her silver SUV looking first for her phone, then for her keys.

“I’ll get it together,” she said.

A few minutes later she was walking across the parking lot and through the front door of the Marriott East. She sat on a nearby couch and explained why she drove to a Jeffersontown hotel from her Georgetown home in a rage.

Perkins had a message to send.

“What’s got me fired up is the lies,” she said.

Those lies, she said, are coming from the state’s elected leaders working in Washington. Namely, Sen. Mitch McConnell.

“These people need to be held accountable,” Perkins said.

And she’s spent the past few days trying to do just that.

Perkins drew national attention earlier this week for tearing into McConnell at a town hall-style event in Lawrenceburg — a small city of about 11,000 residents located some 14 miles south of Frankfort.

A video clip of her sharp address to McConnell was broadcast on national network news programs. Her Facebook feed exploded with messages and posts praising her tenacity.

Still riding the wave of adrenaline, she arrived in Louisville Wednesday ready to press McConnell again for what she considers a lack of empathy for his constituents.

McConnell was being hosted by the Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce for a lunch and an “Update From Washington,” according to an event flyer.

Perkins was ready.

She stood from the couch and made her way through the hotel lobby to the large conference room where the nation’s top ranking Republican was set to speak.

‘I’m outraged’

Perkins is a 54-year-old mother of two with a newfound passion for Kentucky politics.

The back window of her 1999 Honda CRV boasts a “New Kentucky Project” sticker — a nod to the nonprofit political organization formed last year by former Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen and Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones.

She questions if Kentucky needs a new political party.

Perkins blasts Republicans like McConnell and President Donald Trump for ignoring the needs of Kentucky workers, especially residents in the eastern part of the state who for decades depended on coal mining for jobs.

“Those are good, hardworking people and they made them believe they were going to bring back coal,” she said. “My God.”

She’s also not big on Democrats, whose failings she credits with McConnell’s three decades in Washington.

She identifies as an Independent and said she doesn’t want to run for office, “but will if they make me.”

Jacob Ryan | wfpl.org

Rose Mudd Perkins walks through the lobby of the Marriott East in Jeffersontown.

Perkins has spent most of her life in Kentucky.

When she was 22-years-old, she got laid off about the same time her husband did. So, she went to “the rich end of town” to clean houses for cash.

“We needed money,” Perkins said.

Within a few years, she was managing a full scale cleaning business with more than 20 employees — they did houses, businesses and she even claims to have rappelled down the Mercer Tower (back when it was called Capitol Holding Tower) to clean windows.

“That was back in the ’80s,” she said.

But the entrepreneurial lifestyle was taxing and she wanted more time for her young sons. She moved to Georgetown, got a job at Toyota and stayed for 12 years.

Now, she’s unemployed and rents out rooms of her four bedroom brick house about 30 minutes north of Lexington.

And to top it off, she’s not happy with Kentucky’s senior U.S. Senator.

“I’m outraged,” she said.

‘I’m so surprised’

Perkins pulled into the hotel parking lot hours before McConnell and well before the some 300 other people who came to protest the town hall-style event.

In the lobby, she inquired about getting a ticket to the event, but to no avail. The chamber of commerce representative said they were all sold out.

“I wonder how hard it is to get a press pass,” she said.

As photographers and reporters gathered near the entrance to the conference room, Perkins paced nearby.

Police began filtering in and before long, she’d been snuffed out by organizers looking to keep protesters, like Perkins, out.

A Jeffersontown Police officer approached Perkins and asked her to leave the hotel, telling her she was trespassing.

She complied, but not without one last call for democracy.

“I thought this was for voters and constituents and for the American people and for the people of Kentucky,” she said. “I’m so surprised.”

‘We want to be heard’

Outside, Perkins disappeared into the crowd of the few hundred others who gathered to protest McConnell and his support of President Trump.

They held signs and chanted along the sidewalk.

As they carried on outside, the crowd inside the luncheon readied for McConnell to arrive. Some declined to discuss their thoughts about the senator.

Others, however, were ready to push McConnell for answers.

Stuart Goldberg wore a t-shirt that read “We’re Your Constituents, Too,” and sat quietly at a table near the back of the room. He said it’s time for McConnell to listen to the voters.

“He’s avoided us.” he said. “And we want to be heard.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.