A prominent Kentucky Tea Party leader who endorsed the Republican primary challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a registered Democrat who signed a pledge to support Democratic policies and principles while running for state representative in 2012.
Louisville Tea Party President Wendy Caswell announced her support for McConnell’s challenger, Matt Bevin, in a Courier-Journal column last Wednesday. Bevin touted Caswell’s endorsement on his website, and the Hill reported it as a sign Bevin is gaining momentum in the primary race.
“I am very grateful for Wendy’s support,” said Bevin. “She has been a staunch advocate for fiscal conservatism in her community and in the state, and I look forward to bringing these shared values to Washington.”
While Caswell reportedly founded the Louisville Tea Party in 2009 and currently serves as its leader, public records raise questions about her political affiliations and recent intervention in the GOP primary.
“I, Wendy Caswell, do solemnly swear … that I am a registered Democrat voter in M121 precinct,” wrote Caswell in a handwritten Feb. 9, 2012 campaign filing, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
“I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party, and intend to support its principles and policies,” the pledge continued.
The filing is signed by Caswell, a notary, and two registered Democrat witnesses. It was received and signed by Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is currently running for McConnell’s senate seat as a Democrat.
Caswell did not return the Free Beacon’s requests for comment as of press time.
Caswell’s public statements have also raised questions about her political leanings. In an email newsletter last February, she encouraged Louisville Tea Party members to support Progress Kentucky, a controversial liberal super PAC that dissolved last month amid reports that it had bugged a private McConnell campaign meeting.
“Now you may be thinking ‘we can’t possibly have anything in common with a liberal PAC,’ but to the contrary, we may have more in common than you know,” wrote Caswell in the Feb. 19 email. “I recently sat down with [Progress Kentucky leader] Shawn Reilly and discussed his new group, its goals, and its plans for new senator in Kentucky.”
“Of course we didn’t agree on everything, but there’s certainly more in common than the mainstream media pundits would have you believe,” she wrote, adding that Progress Kentucky had “offered to support a [R]epublican primary challenger in the hopes of ousting Sen. McConnell in 2014.”
The Free Beacon reported in August that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Senate Democratic leadership had been boosting Bevin’s candidacy on Twitter and promoting stories that criticized McConnell as insufficiently conservative.
Grassroots conservatives have found an unlikely ally in the DSCC. While McConnell has been criticized by some on the right who say he is not a true conservative, the Senate Minority Leader is also a top target for the Democratic party.
While Bevin has picked up support from conservative activist groups, it has not yet translated into poll numbers. An Aug. 22 poll found McConnell leading Bevin by over 40 points.