Paul, McConnell headline GOP event in Louisville - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Paul, McConnell headline GOP event in Louisville

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Senator Rand Paul Senator Rand Paul
Senator Mitch McConnell Senator Mitch McConnell
Clint Hardy Clint Hardy

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky's two U.S. Senators, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, led a Republican event in downtown Louisville aimed at attracting new members to the party on Friday.

Paul called it "the new GOP," and joked that it welcomed people who wore jeans but also cared about people's freedom.

He has endorsed McConnell, whose race with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is a statistical dead heat in the latest Bluegrass Poll. McConnell first needs to defeat Matt Bevin in the Republican primary.

"I don't have any entitlement, I don't own this seat," McConnell said. "I have to earn it. And I'll earn it both in the primary and in the general (elections)."

Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Nathan Haney said Bevin was at the event but only elected officeholders were invited to speak. Bevin's supporters said he hadn't been invited, and they held their own rally outside the event at the downtown Marriott.

"McConnell's been in (Congress) for 30 years," Bevin supporter Clint Hardy said. "He doesn't represent the values of Kentucky Republicans, much less all Kentuckians."

Paul, who predicted the primary would continue to be "spirited," called on Republicans to attract women, young voters and minorities to the party.

Paul said he sided with the Kentucky House's version of a felon voting rights bill rather than changes that Republican state senators made this week. The original bill would allow felons to vote immediately after their sentences end, while Republican senators inserted a five-year waiting period.

Paul has called on the two sides to work out a compromise.

While focused on the U.S. Senate race, Republicans said a key goal remained winning control of the Kentucky House for the first time in decades.

Democrats currently hold a 54-46 majority. Republicans had various reasons for wanting to take control of the chamber.

"Guess what we could do if we get the House, folks? We could do 'right to work,'" said Sen. Dan Seum, R-Fairdale, referring to legislation that would remove the requirement that employees pay union dues.

A similar measure drew thousands of protesters to the Indiana statehouse before it became law in 2012.

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