The Republican Party of Kentucky has begun the tricky task of trying to unify its party nearly three weeks before GOP primary voters choose between U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Louisville challenger Matt Bevin.
The state party is asking the candidates to sign a letter pledging their support for the Republican nominee. McConnell and Bevin were notified Tuesday that the letter, addressed to "fellow Republicans," will be mailed to the candidates Wednesday morning in hopes that they will sign it before the May 20 election.
"We stand united to help ensure GOP unity for the general election next November," the pledge reads. "We pledge our full endorsement and support to the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate immediately following the declaration of a winner in the primary election on the night of May 20, 2014."
McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in an email Tuesday that "from day one, Sen. McConnell has committed to supporting the winner of the primary election."
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"The stakes of this election are too high to give President Obama another vote in the U.S. Senate with Alison Lundergan Grimes," Moore said.
A spokesperson for Bevin had no immediate comment.
In 2010, during the Republican Party's contentious primary for U.S. Senate between Rand Paul and Trey Grayson, both candidates signed similar letters.
The latest letter urges unity, warning of the dangers of electing likely Democratic nominee Grimes.
"If elected to the United States Senate, the Democrat frontrunner from Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, would on day one cast a vote to re-elect Harry Reid, who says 'coal makes you sick,' as the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate," the letter says. "She would undoubtedly be a loyal supporter of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda."
Most political analysts expect McConnell to defeat Bevin by a large margin, but his race against Grimes is considered a toss-up. It's crucial for McConnell that Republicans who might have hard feelings from the primary don't stay home in November.
McConnell senior adviser Josh Holmes told the Herald-Leader on Monday that McConnell "wants to earn the vote of every Kentuckian, and that includes people who may have been supportive of Matt Bevin's candidacy during the primary."
"We successfully brought conservatives back together after a contentious primary in 2010, and we believe that with hard work, we'll have similar success in 2014," Holmes said.
Dan Logsdon, executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party, said there's no need for his party to seek unity after the primary.
"Every Democratic leader in Kentucky is united behind Alison," Logsdon said in a statement. "In every region and county across Kentucky, Democrats are excited about Alison's prospects in November."