Sen. Mitch McConnell isn’t the only Republican senator from Kentucky taking heat from his home state Tea Party these days.
Tea Party groups in Kentucky are criticizing their beloved Sen. Rand Paul this week over his support for immigration reform — though he has not come out 100 percent in favor of the Gang of Eight bill that just made it to the Senate floor yesterday — questioning whether his presidential ambitions in 2016 are clouding his judgment on the issue.
This morning, the Northern Kentucky Tea Party posted this message on their Facebook page along with an article quoting the details of Paul’s speech to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles:
“In 2010 when then Rand Paul was running for Senate he said no welfare benefits to illegals or their anchor babies and that we don’t need any more immigration laws what we need is to enforce the laws that are on the books. i guess running for president has made him change his mind!”
Those basic sentiments were shared by United Kentucky Tea Party leader John Kemper in an interview with LEO yesterday. According to Kemper, Paul has been meeting with “pro-amnesty” groups all over Kentucky — Louisville, Bowling Green and Lexington, as well as national groups — but is refusing to meet with conservatives opposed to the current immigration reform bill. Today he said over 10,000 individual faxes will be sent to Paul’s office, telling him to oppose the bill.
“Rand doesn’t appear to be listening to our side,” Kemper says. “He’s not having meetings with anybody who is anti-amnesty, but he meets with 3,000 pro-amnesty folks. It’s one issue, but it’s pretty significant.”
Kemper pointed out the immigration forum in Lexington that Paul spoke at, which LEO Weekly covered.
“You saw who was in that room,” says Kemper. “Did you see a single anti-amnesty person in that room? I have no problem with someone having a private meeting, but I do when that’s all you’re meeting with. We’ve sent letters from all the Tea Parties to Rand and Mitch saying there’s not a Tea Party organization in the state that agrees with the Senate bill.”
Kemper added that he thought Paul was cynically trying to play both sides of this issue in order to boost his presidential chances in 2016.
“He can say I was really trying to work this out with his Democrat friends in 2016 when he runs for president, and then he can go back to his Republican base and say we tried to get the security issue in there and Democrats just wouldn’t do it,” says Kemper. “So he’s playing politics… Most politicians try to keep one side or the other with him, but he’s magically ticked off both sides on this issue. I don’t know how he runs for president doing that.”
A poll from an establishment Republican pollster released today shows that Kemper and the Northern Kentucky Tea Party’s views on immigration are in the minority in Kentucky, as 63 percent of Kentuckians support the basic outline of the Senate immigration reform bill. It should also be noted that establishment Republicans are the ones pushing for immigration reform within the party, realizing that further alienating the growing Latino demographic could lead to permanent minority status for the GOP in the future.
Kemper also shared some rather… interesting views on immigration from the South, saying “The Puerto Rican and Cuban Latinos are different from those coming from Mexico and other South American states, because (the latter) see government as a way to prosper,” adding that Mexicans take welfare benefits despite also buying “widescreen TVs and 24-inch rims.”
As we mentioned in our story on Paul two weeks ago, such inflammatory rhetoric might just as well have come out of the senator’s mouth three years ago. But not anymore, which is at least a small part of why the Tea Party is so angry with him now.