Will Kentucky Senate race hinge on ... cockfighting?

Regardless of whoever wins the Republican primary in Kentucky for the US Senate, it’s going to be remembered as one of the most colorful battles of the cycle. Last month, challenger Matt Bevin spoke at a cockfighting rally, but claimed to be unaware of the nature of the event. Now, however, a local reporter says he has video of Bevin endorsing the legalization of cockfighting in Kentucky:

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The second speaker, American Gamefowl Defense Director Dave Devereaux, spent several minutes explaining why we were here.

“For the sole purpose of legalizing gamecock fighting at the state level,” said Devereaux.

The next speaker, in front of more than 700 people, was Republican US Senate Candidate Matt Bevin.

“There is not a cause, there is not an issue, nothing we believe in that we could not bring to fruition if we turn out to vote,” said Bevin.

When he was finished, he was asked a direct question.

“Will you vote to support the effort to legalize gamecock fighting in the state of Kentucky?” asked Devereaux.

“I support the people of Kentucky exercising their right, because it is our right to decide what it is that we want to do, and not the federal government’s. Criminalizing behavior, if it’s part of the heritage of this state, is in my opinion a bad idea. A bad idea. I will not support it,” said Bevin, which was met with rousing applause from the crowd.

ABC News suggests that Bevin has “lied repeatedly” about the event:

The Tea Party candidate challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to a primary challenge has been caught in an undercover video attending a cockfighting rally last month and there is evidence that he lied repeatedly about the event.

Matt Bevin, who is seeking to wrest Kentucky’s Republican Senate nomination from McConnell, and his campaign have said they thought it was a state’s rights rally he attended in Corbin, but in the undercover video from WAVE 3 News it’s clear what the event is about with signs supporting the legalizing of cockfighting. Bevin even speaks right after a cockfighting activist who explained clearly why they were: “For the sole purpose of legalizing gamecock fighting at the state level.” …

In recent weeks, Bevin insisted it was a rally for states’ rights, not cock fighting. He told WHAS TV,  “So, people at the first rally were there to discuss state’s rights, everything from probably cockfighting, I don’t know because I was gone, to helmet laws to growing of hemp etc.” And he told the Courier-Journal, “It was a states’ rights rally.” In an interview with the News Journal, Bevin said he did not realize the event had anything to do with cockfighting.

Needless to say, Mitch McConnell is delighted:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused his primary challenger Friday of lying about his participation at a cockfighting rally, citing a local news report that shows Bevin being asked directly about cockfighting.

Kentucky GOP Senate hopeful Matt Bevin has said that he didn’t know he was speaking at a cockfighting rally after video surfaced of his speech at a gathering in late March.

“Matt Bevin’s cockfighting episode will go down in history as one of the most disqualifying moments in Kentucky political history,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. “Twenty years from now, we will all remember the time when the East Coast con-man thought so little of Kentuckians that he pathologically lied to us about absolutely everything until an undercover camera caught him red-handed at a cockfighting rally.”

Bevin’s campaign released a statement that doesn’t exactly deny that Bevin fibbed about his participation or his endorsement for legalization, but instead called it “just a rehash of an old story”:

The Bevin campaign, in a statement to POLITICO, said the report was “a rehash of an old story” and a distraction from the “old liberal policies” from the Senate minority leader.

“This is just a rehash of an old story,” the statement read. “Primary voters will have a choice on May 20th between a veteran, small business owner, father of nine who will fight for our conservative values in Matt Bevin, or more of the same old liberal policies from Mitch McConnell. Since McConnell can’t defend his record, all he can do is try to make his opponent look worse. Instead, we should be addressing the core issue — that the federal government has gotten too big, too intrusive, and needs to be reined in.”

An “old story”? The rally took place on March 29th, about four weeks ago.

In my opinion, cockfighting belongs to the same dustbin of history as dogfighting does, and plenty of conservatives vented their outrage over the latter when Michael Vick got busted doing it. Kentuckians might feel differently, though, and the rest of us won’t get a vote. But Bevin’s attempt to have it both ways and duck responsibility for his choice of venues and campaign pledges doesn’t make him a terribly attractive alternative to Mitch McConnell.