A prominent Kentucky Democratic lawmaker's comment comparing beating Mitch McConnell to defeating the Nazis on Monday earned condemnation from the Tea Party challenger seeking to unseat McConnell.
Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, running against Senate Minority Leader McConnell in the Republican primary, characterized Kentucky Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo's comment as the latest in a series of childish remarks from both McConnell and his Democratic opponent Allison Grimes.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
"Despite my call to elevate the tenor of this campaign's debate to something higher than that of a typical race for eighth-grade class president, the other candidates in this race have continued to ignore the issues,” Bevin said Monday in a statement. "From noise about Nazis, to protective eyewear, to photoshop and Obama girl, Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes are insulting each other and all Kentuckians by ignoring what really matters.”
Stumbo, a longtime towering Democratic figure in the state's political landscape, last week rocked the Senate race already getting national buzz by likening defeating McConnell to liberating Europe from Nazi control.
“It reminded me of the feeling our troops must have had when they liberated the European nations after World War II,” Stumbo said at an event for Grimes. “Can you imagine what it felt like that you were liberating a country? Well, you’re about to liberate your state from the worst reign of misabuse that we’ve seen in the last 30 years.”
Both McConnell and Grimes took questions on the matter over the weekend.
McConnell discarded the comment, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"It just shows the lengths to which they're prepared to descend in order to win the election," McConnell said. "I don't think that kind of rhetoric is helpful at all, and I'm sure he's spending the day explaining to people like you that he really didn't mean it."
Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, neither condemned nor endorsed the speaker's remarks.
“People try to put words in my mouth all the time, so I don't want to attempt nor would I ever try to speak for Speaker Stumbo," Grimes told the Herald-Leader. “And what he meant, I'll let you ask him directly what he meant by his comments."
The Kentucky Senate campaign is drawing national attention because of McConnell's leadership position. The Democratic National Committee is poised to dump money into the campaign for November. Meanwhile, the Senate Conservative Fund and other Tea Party groups are backing Bevin in the May primary. Polls have shown McConnell and Grimes in a dead heat, while McConnell is still soundly beating Bevin by more than 20 points.
The stir over the comment pits two of the biggest political figures in the Bluegrass State against each other: McConnell, a prolific fundraiser, was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has been widely credited for putting what was previously an almost non-existent Republican Party in the state to parity with Democrats. The state Republican Party Headquarters in Frankfort is even named for him.
Stumbo, meanwhile, is a longtime powerbroker in Kentucky politics. Over the decades, he was mentioned as a potential challenger to McConnell, but never got in the race, in part because of a notoriously messy personal life. He was a strong House majority leader before getting elected state attorney general where he relentlessly pursued the state's Republican governor on various charges that didn't stick. He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor before running again for the state House of Representatives where he immediately became speaker in 2008.
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