POLITICS

McConnell fundraising nearing $12m for re-election

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has raised nearly $12 million for his re-election bid, giving him an enormous head start over any potential Democratic challengers.

Campaign manager Jesse Benton said McConnell will file a report with the Federal Election Commission later this week showing he has raised another $1.8 million since January and that he has about $8.6 million on hand. Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson said McConnell also raised more than $500,000 over the same period for the state GOP that will work to support his re-election.

"Sen. McConnell's fundraising ability is second to none," Benton said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Mitch's tremendous efforts are allowing us to build a topnotch campaign with the best people and the best technology that will make Kentucky proud."

McConnell had raised about $10 million for his re-election by the end of last year.

So far McConnell doesn't have a serious challenger. Actress Ashley Judd had considered running, but announced late last month that she won't. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a rising star within the state Democratic Party, hasn't ruled out a run.

Through a spokeswoman, Grimes declined to comment on McConnell's fundraising.

University of Kentucky political scientist Steve Voss said the war chest shouldn't necessarily be discouraging to potential Democratic rivals.

"Any Democrat should have known that McConnell was going to have very deep pockets, and that beating him was going to be about message, not about drowning him out," Voss said.

Defeating McConnell would be the Democrats' biggest prize of the 2014 election. His seat is one of 14 that Republicans are defending while Democrats try to hold onto 21, hoping to retain or add to their 55-45 edge.

The 71-year-old McConnell, first elected to the Senate in 1984, is a resilient politician with an unbroken string of victories and a reputation of pummeling opponents. He spent more than $20 million in 2008 to beat Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford by 6 percentage points.

Democratic strategist Danny Briscoe said McConnell's fundraising success should surprise no one. "He's the head of the Republican Party in the Senate; he's taking advantage of his position," Briscoe said. "Without an opponent, nobody else is raising money. He's got the whole universe to himself."

Robertson said he appreciates McConnell's efforts on behalf of the state GOP.

"It's certainly not uncommon for Sen. McConnell to give a great deal of his time to help raise money for our organization," Robertson said. "And that's not just once every six years. He is very vested in what we do at the Republican Party of Kentucky."

Robertson said the state GOP will be using the money to build "a robust grassroots network" to elect Republican candidates for offices from the statehouse to the U.S. Senate.

"For Sen. McConnell to make that commitment to make sure that we have the funds to pursue these party building programs is a big deal," Robertson said.

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