Sam Youngman

Sam Youngman: Matt Bevin courts big donors at private Lexington event for Marco Rubio

With his campaign in debt, Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin is trying to make new friends among Kentucky's well-heeled donor class.

At a private reception in Lexington Monday night, Bevin joined Republican presidential candidate and Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Philadelphia 76ers' Nerlens Noel and some of the state's top political donors at an event organized by Lexington power couple Kelly Knight and Joe Craft.

The event, described as a private party, was not made public by Bevin or the hosts.

The meet-and-greet with Rubio was the primary reason for the reception, but attendees said Bevin, who was onstage with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul when he announced his presidential campaign in April, spoke at the gathering.

The event was not a fundraiser, but it's clear from the most recent fundraising reports that Bevin could use some friends among Kentucky's big donors.

Bevin's post-primary election campaign finance report showed that he lent his campaign an additional $800,000 in the closing days of the primary, bringing the total Bevin gave his campaign to more than $2.5 million.

As The Courier-Journal recently reported, Bevin's loans to his own campaign represent 95 percent of his total receipts. The report also showed that Bevin is starting the general election campaign with more than $110,000 in debt.

Tax returns

The Kentucky Democratic Party, using U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's winning playbook from last year's Senate primary, has relentlessly tried to define Bevin as dishonest and untrustworthy.

Adding fuel to the Democratic Party's fire, Bevin has so far refused to follow the bipartisan tradition of gubernatorial candidates releasing their tax returns to the public. State Democrats said Tuesday that some Republican presidential candidates, including Donald Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, are releasing their tax returns.

Democrats have repeatedly asked what Bevin is hiding, but the candidate has given no indication that he will budge on his refusal.

After speaking to a group of public retirees in Lexington last week, Bevin dismissed the call to release his tax returns.

"That's a smokescreen that gets people like you excited and others as well," Bevin said. "But it's a smokescreen. What does that have to do with anything related to creating jobs in this state?"

When asked about establishing a level of trust with Kentucky voters who might not know him, Bevin agreed that was important, saying he has "gone above and beyond on many things, and I will continue to."