FRANKFORT — Saying there should be no doubt that he intends to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate next year, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin filed Friday to try to unseat Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
Bevin's wife, Glenna, and Larry Forgy, a Lexington attorney who lost the 1995 GOP bid for governor and is an ardent opponent of McConnell, signed Bevin's filing papers in the office of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Capitol.
Grimes is expected to be the Democratic nominee in next year's U.S. Senate race, which political observers have estimated will cost $100 million in campaign spending.
Bevin, a well-heeled investment manager in Louisville, had announced in July that he would be a candidate. He has founded several firms and has invested in companies with interests ranging from manufacturing to software.
After making his candidacy official Friday, Bevin held a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda with his wife, their nine children — four adopted from Ethiopia — and Forgy.
Bevin, who has the backing of some Tea Party activists, said he is in the race because this nation is on "a financially unsustainable path."
The problem cannot be solved by "sending the same tired people back to Washington over and over again," said Bevin, who advocates a limit of two terms for members of Congress.
Bevin accused McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, of personally benefiting from political power. But he later declined to provide any specific examples.
Bevin chided McConnell for not doing enough to end the new federal health care law backed by President Obama and to benefit Kentucky.
"He's an example of failed leadership," Bevin said.
McConnell, in a brief interview later, declined to discuss his primary opponent.
"I don't have any observations about the primary," he said.
But he disputed the contention that he hadn't done enough to defeat Obamacare.
"I don't think there's a person in America, and certainly not in Kentucky, who doesn't know that I led the opposition to Obamacare four years ago. I've tried to defund it, delay it, everything else. It's just absurd to suggest that somehow I'm not in favor of getting rid of Obamacare," McConnell said.
In the general election, McConnell said, "It's going to be a big issue. A really big issue."
Bevin would not say how much of his personal wealth he will spend in the campaign, but he said it will take "several million dollars" to get his message out.
McConnell already has raised more than $17 million.
Both Bevin and Forgy predicted that voter turnout in the GOP primary election next May will be low, but they said Bevin's conservatism will attract and motivate voters to pull the lever for him.
Forgy said he will do whatever Bevin asks him to do for the campaign.
Asked what soured him on McConnell, Forgy, who served on McConnell's successful campaign finance committee for Jefferson County judge in the 1970s, said he thinks McConnell mistreated former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul by trying to get other Republicans to defeat them.
Paul, who has endorsed McConnell for re-election, declined Friday to criticize Bevin.
"I think these primaries are good for us. They make us all better. And I don't have any problem with Matt Bevin. I think he's a good, honest, Christian man. And you know I'm not saying anything bad about Matt Bevin," Paul said.
Grimes' campaign said Bevins' candidacy will weaken McConnell.
Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for the McConnell campaign, said, "Matt is doing Barack Obama and the liberals in Washington a great service by trying to divide conservatives rather than focus on Alison Lundergan Grimes and the authors of Obamacare.
"Perhaps that's why he enlisted a Harry Reid supporter to sign his filing papers."
Her comment about Reid, the Senate majority leader, was in apparent reference to Forgy's 1988 contribution of $1,000 to Reid's Senate campaign.
Forgy said Friday that he contributed to Reid "when he was helping us on some tobacco issues."
Forgy and Reid also were classmates at George Washington University School of Law.