LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Kentucky is poised to become the envy of every other state if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wins re-election and Republicans wrest control of that chamber from Democrats, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Saturday.
Huckabee, who unsuccessfully sought the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, told about 250 GOP supporters that Kentucky is at the "epicenter" of next month's mid-term elections. He stressed how valuable it is for a state to be home to the Senate majority leader, with an eye toward a potential expanded role for Kentucky's senior senator.
McConnell, in seeking a sixth term, is locked in a contentious campaign with Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell is the Senate's top-ranking Republican, and is in line to become majority leader if the GOP wins Senate control.
"Let me tell you, if you don't want that, there are 49 other states that would love to have that person in power from their state," Huckabee told the crowd gathered at an airport hangar. "Kentucky is on the verge of an incredible opportunity, for Mitch McConnell to be the majority leader of the United States Senate. Now that is good for America, but it is great for Kentucky."
Huckabee was flanked by McConnell's wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, at the evening rally.
Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton responded to the Huckabee visit by saying McConnell is a highly partisan politician pre-occupied with his own interests. She portrayed the Democratic challenger as an "independent problem-solver who will put partisanship aside."
"After 30 years in Washington, Mitch McConnell is clearly more concerned with his own self-promotion than those looking for work and struggling to make ends meet in Kentucky," Norton said.
The GOP rally was organized by Louisville businesswoman and former ambassador Cathy Bailey, who is seriously considering a run for Kentucky governor next year. Huckabee also attended a fundraiser for a political action committee headed by Bailey to assist Republican candidates.
Huckabee, who is considering a 2016 run for president, made a pitch for Republican candidates up and down the ballot. His focus was also on GOP efforts to win control of the Kentucky House for the first time in nearly a century.
"What an incredible opportunity that is for you, because it's not just changing the power structure of your state Capitol, but what we're talking about is changing the policy of your state Capitol," Huckabee said.
Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher of Louisville, who is facing a tough re-election fight, said a GOP-led House would result in a conservative agenda.
"We're going to have pro-life bills, we're going to have right-to-work bills," he said.
Republicans have not had a majority in the Kentucky House since 1920. Democrats have been whittled to a 54-46 majority, putting the GOP within striking distance of consolidating power in the Kentucky General Assembly. Republicans have solid control of the state Senate.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon said his party is primed to not only hold the House but perhaps add to its majority.
"We feel strongly that we're going to retain control of the House and keep moving the state forward," he said.
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