FRANKFORT — Matt Bevin is getting some outside help in his uphill battle to unseat U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the May Republican primary — and a lot of it targets Republican strongholds in southeastern Kentucky.
The Madison Project, a Washington-based conservative group that supported Republican Ted Cruz in his Texas Senate campaign, announced a week ago it will open five Kentucky get-out-the-vote offices for Bevin.
Then on Thursday, the group announced it is erecting billboards in Clay, Laurel, Madison, Pulaski and Whitley counties attacking McConnell. All but Madison are heavily Republican in registration.
A spokeswoman for McConnell’s campaign blasted the group, saying it is “masquerading as a conservative group,” but is aiding liberal groups that attack McConnell.
There are three versions of the billboards: one blames McConnell for supporting Wall Street bailouts; one says healthcare costs have increased 71 percent during his time in office; and the third ties McConnell to the national debt.
Their placement in rural Republican areas is no accident, according to Daniel Horowitz, policy advisor for the Madison Project.
“That area has a treasure trove of Republican primary voters,” Horowitz explained. “Added together, there are more Republican primary voters in that area who voted in the 2010 primary than there are in Jefferson County.”
The Madison Project is an independent expenditure group. It cannot coordinate with the Bevin campaign, and Rachel Semmel, Bevin’s spokeswoman, said she has no information regarding the Madison Project’s plans.
The group has been active in other Republican primaries, notably supporting Cruz in 2012 and is targeting the McConnell-Bevin.
Horowitz said his group’s supporters want a consistently conservative representation in Washington and McConnell “is more concerned about his self-interest” conservative positions.
“His ideology is power, not conservatism,” Horowitz said. “Sure he’s talking like a conservative now, but as soon as he has no reason to fear us, he moves back to the middle.”