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Friday, December 9, 2016

After years of speculation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is finally getting a Republican challenger in his 2014 re-election bid. Louisville businessman Matt Bevin is expected to officially announce his primary challenge to McConnell this week, with the hope of consolidating Tea Party support to depose the four-term incumbent from the right.

Bevin, who is currently a partner at the Louisville-based investment firm Waycross Partners, will formally declare his electoral plans on Wednesday, according to a Monday press release. Given that Bevin’s campaign has already announced a planned three-day tour of the state, all signs point to him joining the race.

Bevin has long hinted at challenging McConnell from the right. Tea Party groups reportedly began recruiting Bevin into the race in February, and in March he told the right-wing news organization The Daily Caller that he was considering a run.

“If I can be a part of the dialogue that leads to a reversal of the downward economic spiral that faces us as a state and as a nation, then I am willing to do so,” Bevin said at the time. “The people of this state are self-reliant, hard-working and strongly principled citizens and many of us are disheartened by the idea that the values we hold dear are being left behind at the state border by some of those who are representing us in Washington…We deserve better.”

Politico reports that Bevin has recently been meeting with influential right-wing groups such as the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Madison Project, hoping to marshal support for a serious challenge to the deep-pocketed, well-connected McConnell.

McConnell, who is an obvious target for a Tea Party challenge due to his image as the consummate Washington insider, has long prepared for a primary battle — and is highly unlikely to lose such a contest, despite his low poll numbers. McConnell has an intimidating war chest of nearly $10 million in cash on hand that he can spend to fight off opponents, and he has gone out of his way to forge a close relationship with the Tea Party’s favorite politician in the state, Senator Rand Paul. McConnell — who initially opposed Paul’s Senate run, instead backing then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson — even hired longtime Paul ally Jesse Benton to manage his re-election campaign.

On Friday, Benton served notice that McConnell is not overlooking Bevin, and that his famously vicious political operation would not shy away from attacking a fellow Republican. In a statement, Benton dismissed the Connecticut-born businessman, saying “Matthew Griswold Bevin is not a Kentucky conservative, he is merely an East Coast con man.”

The winner of the Republican primary is expected to face Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the general election.

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