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U.S. Senate hopeful Matt Bevin visited Shelbyville Monday for the first time on his campaign and used the opportunity to remind those that turned out to hear him that they have a choice. For the first time in 30 years, Republicans have a choice.
Bevin hosted a luncheon Monday afternoon at Tumbleweed and a town hall meeting at the Stratton Center in the evening.
A small number of attendees from Jefferson, Henry and Shelby counties listened and asked questions during the informal meet-and-greet sessions. But the very small turnout – about six at each session – allowed for straightforward dialogue between the candidate and constituents.
“Most critically, you have a choice between somebody who doesn’t speak our language, who doesn't think that jobs or economic growth are his responsibility,” Bevin said. “What he [Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell] fails to appreciate it is the role of our elected officials to fight for us – not for yourself, not for your own job, not for your friends in Washington, not for the lobbyists, not for big business, not for Wall Street. You are there to fight for your constituents.”
Bevin, who owns several businesses ranging from the Bevin Bell Company, a family company, to Neuronetrix, a medical device company, said being a business owner gives him an advantage over other candidates.
“What sets me apart from everyone else in this race is that I have created jobs you didn’t pay for. I am the only person in this race who has created jobs in the private sector,” Bevin said. “If we don’t start electing men and women who know how the wealth of this nation is created, we will be hurt. I employ dozens and dozens of people, and I am making payroll everyday. The number one threat to this nation is our debt. The debt is compounded by people who have never worked in the private sector thinking you can spend money we don't have. We need business people who deal with the suffocation of taxation and regulation.”
Part of the regulation and taxation that Bevin is most familiar with came from the Affordable Care Act, which enacted a 2.3 percent tax on the first sale of medical devices.
Manufacturers pay the tax not consumers, but Bevin said that tax and the Affordable Care Act have hurt the entire nation.
“There are businesses out there, small business that aren’t looking to go beyond 49 employees – due to the Affordable Care Act, which affects businesses with 50 or more employees – and it’s that type of taxation that is killing entrepreneurship,” Bevin said.
Shelby County native Ken Harp who lives on the Jefferson and Shelby county line came to the luncheon to meet Bevin.
“I think Matt [Bevin] is interesting. It’s probably the most interesting primary in a long time for Mitch [McConnell],” Harp said. “I’m tired of the ‘establishment’ Republicans. I can’t tell the difference between the two parties anymore. It doesn’t really matter what you believe in anymore. It’s about who can raise money the fastest. For a guy who’s been in public office for 30 years, I don’t know that he ever had a job outside of politics or public office. How do you become a millionaire working for the government? I don’t understand that and they are all like that.”
Harp said he liked some of Bevin’s positions and the new Republicans like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
“This crop we have now [of politicians] is the reason there should be term limits,” Harp said. “It’s never going to happen because who is going to vote themselves out?”
During both meetings Bevin said he is the alternative for Republicans and Democrats. He noted that his values, conservative values, make him appealing – the best alternative between Grimes and McConnell. From those values, Bevin emphasized five things every voter wants.
“I bet you everyone in this restaurant, at least three quarters of them, want these five things. Number one: term limits for elected officials,” Bevin said. “Number two, balance budget amendment. Why the flippity-flip shouldn’t we be running the federal government like we do this restaurant or home? Number three: permanently banning earmarking. Earmarking is basically politicians in Washington buying each other off with our money. Number four: banning insider trading. So the same self-righteous hypocrites in Martha Stewart’s face and sent her off packing going to jail aren’t allowed to do the same thing. And number five, in a similar vein, make congress live under every single law in its entirety as they do us.”
Bevin said he would introduce legislation around those five points, and he would fight for his constituents, and didn’t care if he was unpopular in Washington.
“If there’s any question about if I’m the guy willing to take on a difficult challenge look at this race,” Bevin said. “I’m doing something no one’s been willing to do for thirty years. Is it thankless at times, yes.”
Bevin has taken criticism for remarks made on cockfighting, listing Massachusetts Institute of Technology on his Linkedin account, and at the luncheon and the town hall meeting, being filmed by someone he claimed was from the McConnell campaign.
A man that appeared to be in his 20s filmed Bevin from one of the booths at Tumbleweed while Bevin talked with attendees and ate lunch. At the hall meeting, the man who would only give his name as Will, said he was with the University of Kentucky Republicans.
“I go around and film him for the UK College Republicans. They [McConnell and Bevin] claim both sides video them. It’s just politics,” he said. “I give the videos to a girl at our organization, and I don’t know what she does with them.”
Michael Babiarz, current chairman of the UK College Republicans, said the organization doesn’t send students out to film those type of events.
“I can’t say I know anything about it. I didn’t even know Bevin was having an event in Shelbyville yesterday,” Babiarz said. “When it comes to primary races, we allow our members to decide who they want to support and don’t tell them who they can or cannot do independent work for — that would be wrong. They can support whoever they want: McConnell or Bevin. As far as sending people to these events to film them, we don’t do that.”
Bevin moved the meeting to a smaller room at the Stratton Center with mostly attendees from Jefferson County and locked the man out of the room.
He later also would not allow two people dressed in chicken suits into the town hall meeting.
“It’s the chicken people they must be local,” Bevin said. “They came to another restaurant near here – called The Rails they showed up there too. They must be local.”
Two people were likely in reference to a rally Bevin attended in Corbin where the Corbin News Journal reported the rally to be in support of cockfighting. The two also held a banner with MIT written on it.
“The MIT thing has been debunked,” Bevin said. “This all a myth by Mitch McConnell. I’ve never lived my life by the ill informed. He has spent twelve and half million dollars on this race already.”
Bevin told supporters he would not support a bill that isn’t Constitutionally backed.
“What will guide me is the Constitution of the United States of America,” Bevin said. “I will not sponsor a bill, co-sponsor a bill, vote to further debate a bill that is not constitutionally enumerated. We make far too many decisions at the federal level for which there is no authorization. They are state-level responsibilities. We’ve got to shrink the size of government.”