01/09/2014 04:21 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Kentucky Republican Primary Heats Up As McConnell, Bevin Campaigns Hurl Insults

U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin on Thursday criticized his rival, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in a policy-oriented speech titled "A Path Forward for Kentucky."

In the speech, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, Bevin sounded many of the same notes as McConnell in denouncing the Affordable Care Act and environmental regulations aimed at the coal industry. But he also took aim at McConnell's track record as a leader in the Senate.

“Never before in U.S. political history has a sitting party leader lost a primary election, but never in our history has it been so important that one does,” Bevin said, accusing McConnell of supporting "big business" rather than his constituents.

Bevin is a tea party-backed businessman who is president of Bevin Brothers Manufacturing, a bell manufacturing company located in Connecticut. He worked as a financial consultant in Boston and Philadelphia before moving to Kentucky.

McConnell's campaign responded to Bevin's speech by attacking his background.

"Kentuckians aren’t buying the traveling salesman’s laughable pitch that the New England finance man is a Kentucky conservative," McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore told the Courier-Journal in Louisville.

Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff of McConnell's who now works at the Republican National Senatorial Committee, tweeted out a stand-up act by comedian Jon Lovitz in response to Bevin's remarks.

"I'm a member of Pathological Liars Anonymous," Lovitz says in the clip. "In fact, I'm the founder of that organization, yeah that's it."

In an email to The Huffington Post, a spokeswoman for the Bevin campaign said she wasn't surprised.

"It's incredibly disappointing that Mitch McConnell's campaign continues to act as if this is a race for 8th grade class President, but we expect nothing more from their sophomoric campaign," said the spokeswoman, Rachel Semmel. "We look forward to when McConnell begins to discuss his repeated votes to bail out the Wall Street banks and increase government spending."

The sniping between the two campaigns began even before Bevin declared his candidacy. He has been endorsed by the Senate Conservatives Fund, a PAC founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), which has invested nearly $1 million in his campaign. Even so, an average from HuffPost Pollster, which combines all publicly available polling data, shows McConnell leading Bevin 53 percent to 26 percent.

The primary to determine the Republican nominee will be held on May 20. The primary's winner will likely face Democratic front-runner Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, in the November general election.



Senate Seats Up For Grabs In 2014