By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — In a sign of the Tea Party’s growing influence on Republican politics, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is scheduled to speak at a Tea Party rally for what is believed to be the first time later this month in Frankfort.
McConnell will join Kentucky’s junior senator, Republican Rand Paul of Bowling Green, at the podium of the Aug. 21 rally at the state Capitol. The two are expected to criticize the federal Affordable Health Care Act and Gov. Steve Beshear’s order to set up an online health care exchange to assist people looking for health insurance.
“In no way, shape or form has McConnell ever done this,” said state Tea Party activist David Adams. “I think it speaks to the new political reality that the Tea Party is growing bigger and stronger.”
Sarah Durand, president of the Louisville Tea Party, said she is pleased McConnell plans to be at the rally.
She said McConnell once held a question-and-answer session with her party, but she could not recall his speaking at any Tea Party rally in Kentucky.
“If he has, I don’t know about it,” she said.
“The Tea Party and Republican Party have not agreed on everything, but repeal of Obamacare is an issue we can agree on,” Durand said.
McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer confirmed that McConnell is scheduled to speak at the rally. Moira Bagley, a spokeswoman for Paul, confirmed that Paul will be there.
Paul was elected in 2010 with strong support by the Tea Party. McConnell actively campaigned against Paul during the 2010 Republican primary, but voters soundly rejected his favored candidate, then-Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
Paul speaks frequently at Tea Party rallies.
Durand noted that Republican Andy Barr, who is trying to unseat Democratic incumbent Ben Chandler in Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District race, also will be a speaker.
The rally, free to the public, is to begin at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 21 on the front steps of the Capitol and last about 90 minutes, Durand said.
She said the Lexington Tea Party and the Northern Kentucky Tea Party will be co-sponsoring the event with the Louisville Tea Party.