Politics & Government

McConnell meets with Kentucky House Republicans to rally for 2016

McConnell AP

Incoming U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met privately with about 35 Republican members of the Kentucky House Saturday to begin plotting the GOP's next attempt at taking control of the state's lower chamber.

McConnell huddled with the Republican lawmakers at the Galt House in Louisville after speaking to a gathering of the Kentucky Farm Bureau.

"Sen. McConnell thinks 2016 will be another very good year for Republicans, and this an effort to begin laying the groundwork," said Terry Carmack, McConnell's top aide.

McConnell acknowledged in remarks to reporters last month that his own re-election effort had kept him from focusing on the GOP's attempt to take control of the House from Democrats for the first time since 1921. Despite McConnell's landslide win over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democrats maintained their 54-46 advantage over Republicans in the state House.

Carmack said McConnell urged lawmakers to begin recruiting candidates now to make sure they are in a position to win in 2016.

"He certainly emphasized candidate recruitment," Carmack said, noting that the filing deadline is just more than a year away.

Saturday's meeting comes after Democratic House leaders gathered with Gov. Steve Beshear Wednesday to discuss their win last month and strategy for 2016, said Brian Wilkerson, a spokesman for House Speaker Greg Stumbo. The Democratic caucus will hold its first fundraiser for 2016 later this month, he said.

State Rep. Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, said McConnell called the meeting Saturday to "reiterate to our caucus that he is going to be 100 percent engaged in 2016 in a way that we've never seen before."

Shell said the meeting was part pep talk, but also got specific about strategy, with McConnell outlining what steps national Republicans had taken to win control of the U.S. Senate.

"There were very specific things that he thought we needed to be doing," Shell said. "One was candidate recruitment, and the other was fundraising."