Former Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Larry Forgy — who came within an eyelash of becoming governor in 1995 — tells LEO Weekly there is no chance that he will support Sen. Mitch McConnell in his re-election effort next year, in either the primary or general election.
“I’m looking for a candidate,” says Forgy. “I’m not going to support McConnell, but I’m not going to support the Democrat because it’s too much Obama for me. But I don’t intend to be involved McConnell’s campaign or even vote for him. There’s a third way. I’ll stay at home if that’s the only option.”
Asked what he thought of Matt Bevin, the Louisville Republican who launched his primary challenge against McConnell this week, Forgy says that he’s impressed, but wants to learn more about him before officially supporting his campaign.
“Well, I’m impressed so far, but I don’t want to get too far out on that, because there’s some early vetting that I want to see done before I get involved in his campaign.”
Forgy’s relationship with McConnell has been rocky for many years, most recently flaring when the senator chose to support former congresswoman Anne Northup over incumbent governor Ernie Fletcher in 2007, which made Forgy flirt with the idea of mounting a primary challenger against McConnell the following year.
Another Republican former gubernatorial candidate, Billy Harper, is supporting Bevin and introduced him in Paducah at a campaign stop yesterday.
Bevin also has the overwhelming support of Tea Party groups in Kentucky. He received the immediate endorsement of the United Kentucky Tea Party, was introduced at his first event in Frankfort by the Bowling Green Tea Party president, and his campaign spokesperson is Sarah Durand, former president of the Louisville Tea Party. Several big-spending national conservative groups — such as Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, who enjoy the prospect of taking out establishment Republicans in primary fights who are not conservative enough for their liking — have already signaled that they may jump in to help Bevin.
However, what’s strikingly absent at this point is the lack of any current elected Republican officials in Kentucky throwing their support towards Bevin, or even expressing their willingness to remain open-minded about who to support.
At Bevin’s Lousiville announcement on Wednesday, LEO Weekly asked Bevin if any elected officials — and Phil Moffett, the Tea Party gubernatorial candidate in 2011 who lost to David Williams in the GOP primary — had encouraged him to run. Bevin’s reply hinted that while some did, they are not coming out publicly because they fear retaliation from the GOP establishment.
“Again, I will let Phil speak for himself. But I have spoken to a number of folks who are both elected officials, former elected officials, and people who have attempted to become elected officials. And I have received encouragement from all of those sources.
It saddens me the fear that is deep within this state party. The Republican Party in the state of Kentucky is crippled by fear. There are good people, principled people, good leaders who are represented and represent us in our House in Frankfort and in the Senate who are fearful of stepping up because of the recrimination. That has got to end.
Another reason why I’m running is we the people should not be fearful of the people who are working for us. Period.”
Talk of a similar retaliation was hinted at by an unnamed Bevin adviser in a National Review article this week, as they suggested people close to McConnell tried to threaten or bribe Bevin into not running for office:
“First they tried to threaten him,” the source added, “and then they tried to dangle shiny political prizes.”
But speaking of “shiny political prizes,” Sen. Rand Paul remains firmly in McConnell’s camp, despite obviously having more in common with Bevin when it comes to policy stances. Paul, of course, has forged a mutually beneficial alliance with McConnell since 2010, as he wants McConnell’s support to build his presidential profile for 2016, and McConnell wants Paul’s support to prevent getting “Lugar-ed” by a Tea Party challenger in next May’s primary. Likewise, Tea Party upstart Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky’s 4th District looks like an ideological soul mate of Bevin, but was discouraging a primary challenge of McConnell earlier this year. McConnell helped raise money for Massie’s general election race last year, and if he plays ball enough, would likely do so again next year. Since Bevin entered the race, Massie has yet to speak about who he will support.
Phil Moffett remains another big question mark in the McConnell-Bevin race. He’s rumored as eyeing a run for governor again in 2015, and has been reluctant to cast any aspersions towards McConnell in the past year. While many Tea Partiers were hopeful that Moffett would come out for Bevin right away — and many cynics expected him to support McConnell and build up his GOP establishment street cred — he stated on his Facebook page yesterday that he will vet both candidates before he makes his decision, but hopes that they don’t play dirty and mean in the meantime.
I must say I really hate name calling in politics (and elsewhere). When I ran for governor, I tried to stay away from it and stick to issues – I think I succeeded but I’m sure I failed from time to time. I hope and pray terms like “con-man” and “liar” fall away quickly so we can get on this discussion of substantive issues.
Now it’s time to make just about everyone mad at me. Who am I going to endorse? I’m not going to do anything yet and it may end up that I not do it at all. I need to know more. We are blessed to have two well-qualified candidates with a lot to debate, discuss, and explain. Just the kind of stuff a political junkie like me looks forward to.
Why am I waiting? Honestly, I did the same thing with Rand Paul when he entered his Senatorial race. I had close friends asking me to get on board early and I didn’t. It may be a flaw of mine but I like to know a lot about something or someone before I become convinced it’s the right move.
For further proof, I didn’t get married until I was 34 years old even with my mother, God bless her soul, asking me about when I was going to get on with giving her more grandkids.
No offense to mom or anyone else out there but I’ll be watching, listening, attending political events and will come around when I’m ready to come around.
Above all, it is my sincerest hope substantive debate dominates this race. Our country needs it desperately.
We’ll see if the alleged culture of fear and intimidation in the Republican Party of Kentucky wins out, or if Bevin picks up enough grassroots support to get legislators and elected officials to stick their neck out for him. Or, maybe McConnell really is popular with the Republican Party’s base and none of this will really matter.