(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes officially launched her Senate campaign Tuesday against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., playing off his campaign’s nickname of Team Mitch and urging the crowd to join “Team Switch.”
“There is a disease of dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and after nearly 30 years Mitch McConnell is at the center of it,” Grimes said at her campaign kickoff in Louisville. “Where once congressmen and senators would actually come together to find a common ground, to work for the better good, we now have Sen. McConnell the proud guardian of gridlock grinding our government to a halt.”
Dressed in a red suit and jacket, the 34-year-old Democrat gave a nod to how bruising the race will be, saying McConnell, 71, has, “used public service as a carnival game of whac-a-mole.”
“If someone dares to pick their head up and disagree with them, he wants to bang it down,” Grimes told the large crowd. “I have a message for you, Sen. McConnell, that you have probably already seen: I don’t scare easy and neither does the rest of Kentucky.”
The reference to “whac-a-mole” comes from an audio tape leaked out of a McConnell campaign meeting in April in which the five-term Kentucky senator is heard comparing the early months of a campaign to the carnival game.
Before Grimes announced at the outdoor rally, she was preceded via video by former President Bill Clinton, a family friend of the Lundergans, who said he’s known Grimes “a long time” and the race will, “be long, it will be hard, but you can win, you can win.”
“She understands how the issues in Washington affect the people in Kentucky and she sees not just the problem, but also the opportunities Kentuckians can have for a brighter future, but first Kentucky needs — and our whole country needs — political leaders who are willing to work together across the lines of party geography and philosophy to find solutions that actual work,” Clinton said.
Like Grimes, Clinton stressed that she would be more willing to work with the opposing party than McConnell.
“Just saying no all the time for the sake of saying no doesn’t move the ball forward one inch,” Clinton said. “We have simply got to have more people that are willing to reach across the aisle and say I am ready to work with you to build a brighter future.”
Grimes thanked Clinton, saying, “Kentucky has had no better friend in the White House.”
In the announcement, Grimes made sure to distance herself from current resident of the White House, President Obama, first accusing McConnell of, “blocking legislation that could actually help Kentucky and help to move this nation forward” out of “spite.”
“I’m here to tell you I don’t always agree with the president. I think he’s wrong on coal,” Grimes said. “I think we need to cut the wasteful spending and pass a balanced budget amendment and I think there are things in the Affordable Care Act which we must fix, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put the good of our people ahead of the bad that comes with acting petty and small.”
McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton responded to Grimes’ campaign kickoff with a statement saying, “Mitch McConnell is our Commonwealth’s greatest champion on both the National and International stage.”
“We look forward to promoting his Pro-Kentucky, Pro-America record as we re-elect him to the United States Senate,” Benton said. “Kentuckians have a clear choice between Mitch McConnell, an unwavering defender of our people and Alison Lundergan Grimes, an ambitious but unproven liberal who will be more beholden to President Obama and his financial backers than the citizens she hopes to represent. Our campaign looks forward to debating the important issues of the day and proving why Mitch McConnell is the best person to carry Kentucky’s banner in the United States Senate.”
Grimes originally announced a month ago on July 1 in a hastily called press conference, then last week released her official announcement video — making Tuesday’s kickoff her third announcement for the Senate seat.
McConnell also has a Republican challenger. Last week, tea party candidate and Louisville businessman Matt Bevin also got into the race.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Laura Koran, Dan Merica and Tom LoBianco, CNN
Robert Patten, EastIdahoNews.com
Jeremy Diamond, CNN