CAVE CITY —
While Haines and Froedge spoke from the podium, it was former County Judge/Executive David Dickerson who seemed to be in charge. Dickerson is a vocal supporter of Bevin and just as vocal a critic of McConnell and he worked hard to get a large contingent of Bevin supporters at the dinner.
Bevin made some headway in his self-described “long shot” campaign against McConnell. When he was introduced, maybe a third of the crowd stood and applauded loudly. But when Bevin finished his speech, at least half the room rose to their feet.
Steve Birge, a local optometrist, said before the meeting many Republicans didn’t quite know what to make of Bevin while they knew what they had with McConnell. But after Bevin’s speech, Birge said he liked what he’d heard – although he hadn’t yet decided to switch allegiance.
No one who spoke from the stage even mentioned McConnell by name.
But the McConnell forces on hand seemed to sense they were on Bevin’s turf. Some sat at tables in the rear of the room and sometimes shifted uncomfortably in their chairs.
State Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, usually aligned with McConnell, went out of his way to draw attention to Jenean Hampton, the Warren County tea party activist challenging Bowling Green’s state Rep. Jody Richards – perhaps at the urging of Dickerson and others. Hamilton is a very public Bevin supporter.
U.S. Congressman Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, owes his seat to McConnell. McConnell tipped off Guthrie four years ago that then incumbent Republican Congressman Ron Lewis intended to withdraw from a campaign for re-election, so Guthrie was ready to file for the office when Lewis withdrew just before the filing deadline. Saturday night, Guthrie acknowledged differences within the party.
Without mentioning McConnell, Bevin or the tea party, Guthrie acknowledged there is an internal “debate within the party.” That’s fine, Guthrie said. The debate is healthy and good for the party. But after the primary, Guthrie said, Republicans must close ranks so the party can take over the U.S. Senate and stand in opposition to anything Democratic President Barack Obama proposes in his final two years in office.