Tea Party challenger to McConnell emerging

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could see a primary challenge from local businessman Matt Bevin, who sources say is reaching out to Tea Party groups in the state to gauge support for a 2014 Senate run.

Sarah Durand, president of the Louisville Tea Party, told The Hill that Bevin had been in touch with her over the phone to discuss his run multiple times over the past few weeks, and that he met with the group two weeks ago to discuss his interest in the race.

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"We met with him to just discuss our feelings about the Senator, our feelings about someone running against him, what the challenges would be, the risks involved," she said.

She added that other Tea Party groups had reached out to Bevin to encourage him to run, and that even "some people that have supported McConnell in the past" had been in touch with him about a potential bid.

Bevin is the owner of Bevin Brothers Manufacturing, a Connecticut bell-making company founded 160 years ago. He previously worked as CEO of Integrity Asset Management, an investment management firm with offices in Kentucky.

His personal wealth would be an advantage running against McConnell, who has more than $7 million cash on hand and is is actively fundraising in preparation for 2014.

Going into 2014, however, Kentuckians involved in both Democratic and Republican politics believe McConnell could be vulnerable to challenges from the left and the right.

A recent survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling revealed him to be the least popular senator in the nation, and a poll from Republican firm Harper Polling showed one prominent potential Democratic contender, actress Ashley Judd, just nine percentage points behind him.

Tea Party groups, too, have long been mulling a challenge to McConnell, and one Democratic group based in the state, Progress Kentucky, has indicated it is willing to help boost a Tea Party challenger to help bring down McConnell.

Shawn Reilly, executive director of Progress Kentucky, said that while the group hadn't heard from Bevin, they were intrigued by his interest in the race.

"He hasn't reached out to us yet, but we are willing to support a candidate," he said.

Duran was enthusiastic about Bevin's chances in a primary, though she said the Louisville Tea Party would not yet be making any endorsements.

"I think he would be a very formidable candidate. I think that he would have a chance of possibly beating McConnell in the primary. He knows that we like him and we think he's great," she said.