There is a divide in the tea party movement over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell re-election efforts, as two national tea party groups have already endorsed the Kentucky senator and local groups push for a potential primary challenger.
The United Kentucky Tea Party group condemned the move of TheTeaParty.net and Tea Party Nation who have already endorsed McConnell, and said that United Kentucky will support Louisville businessman Matthew Bevin, who is expected to announce his candidacy Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reports.
"We see him a lot in the same vein as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz," said Scott Hofstra, spokesman for the United Kentucky Tea Party. "If he decides to get into the race, we will support him wholeheartedly."
Hofstra issued an open letter signed by 15 local tea party groups to the two national tea party groups chastising them for showing a "lack of research" and "poor judgment" by endorsing McConnell.
"Senator McConnell's progressive liberal voting record, his absolute iron-fist rule of the Republican Party in Kentucky and his willingness to roll over and cede power to President Obama and the liberals in Washington prove that he is no friend to the American people or the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky," the letter said.
Hofstra cited McConnell's support for raising the debt ceiling every time it was increased under President George W. Bush, the TARP financial bailout, free trade agreements, and the 1986 immigration bill. The letter also criticized the Kentucky senator for negotiating a tax bill that froze Bush-era tax rates for those making less than $400,000.
Jesse Benton, McConnell's campaign manager, said that Bevin "is not a Kentucky conservative, he is merely a traveling con man. While it is sad to see someone who claims to be a Republican doing Barack Obama's bidding, his campaign is nothing more than a nuisance."
McConnell "has the Republican base squarely behind him … and remains well positioned to win in November 2014," he added.
McConnell is preparing for what is expected to be a tough fight in the general election against the Democrat candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The Journal notes that in recent months McConnell has had to reach out to the conservative groups that he opposed and who supported Sen. Rand Paul's candidacy in 2010. It is unclear at this point whether Bevin's campaign poses a real threat for McConnell.
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