The U.S. Chamber of Commerce may be helping Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with a television ad launched today that touts the Kentucky senator, but his opponent Matt Bevin says the business organization has an interest in keeping establishment lawmakers like McConnell in office.
"There are a lot of interests that have a very vested interest in preserving the status quo. There are people who have the wheels greased the way they want them, they know how things operate and they like it that way and there is a lot of risks associated with disrupting the status quo," Bevin said Tuesday in an interview. "Many people who are in a position to influence things are using their prerogative to step in and try to keep it the same way."
Bevin said he "firmly believes" if "we don't start to change the people we send to Washington" voters can't expect change.
"You keep doing the same thing, electing the same people, and expect different results," Bevin, who spoke to ABC News on a visit to Washington, said. "It is a fool's game for us to believe that we are going to elect the same people over and over, the same people … [who have] been complicit in, and in some cases directly involved in creating the very problems, but now they are going to be the ones who are going to come up with the solution."
The Chamber of Commerce's 30-second television ad starts running today for 10 days in Kentucky, and it says McConnell will protect the important coal industry in the state.
When asked if he is seeing support from local Chambers of Commerce in the state, despite the national Chamber's support of McConnell, Bevin said only that he had "a lot of support" in the business community and this fight, which he describes as "David vs. Goliath," is not one solely to define the "heart and soul of the Republican Party."
"It is a battle for the heart and soul of the entire political process," Bevin said. "This is a battle for whether or not this government … will be defined by, of and for the people or whether it is going to be of and by and for a handful. A handful of powerful, well-connected, interconnected groups, organizations and individuals. That's really what's at stake here."
Despite being labeled a challenger from the Tea Party, a group not known for wanting to negotiate or compromise, Bevin spoke at length about compromise and working across the aisle, saying "people are hungry for" Democrats and Republicans "to talk to each other because it is imperative."
"We literally cannot afford to do otherwise," Bevin said. "We are on mutually exclusive paths and parallel paths of destruction where the Republican Party and the Democrat Party refuse to talk to each other and each are riding off their own respective cliffs and the people they are alienating are the very constituents they need to have."
Bevin added that both sides of the aisle "must have people speaking to one another in order to accomplish anything," adding "there is nothing shameful about that."
He said he knows there are "zealots" who employ "it's my way or the highway" negotiating tactics, but called it "crazy talk" and said it is "both ends of the spectrum" and "that is not what is needed for good governance."
"Good governance depends upon negotiation, depends on people making compromises, coming together and remembering they are not there to serve their party. They are there to serve the people. It is as simple as that and as complicated as that," Bevin said.
When asked about his opponent's role in reopening the government after the 16 day government shutdown, Bevin called the shutdown itself "irresponsible."
"It was irresponsible that we even got to this point, whether it was him or whoever, I don't see that as a badge of courage or any kind of heroism I see it as him coming in and picking up the pieces of something he had already blown up, that's his responsibility," Bevin said. "He's the senate minority leader."
Bevin's argument is almost identical to the one pushed by the Democratic Senate candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Soon after the shutdown she put out an online ad with a narrator saying, "Mitch McConnell can't light the house on fire and then take credit for putting it out, especially when it's still burning" over footage of a home engulfed in flames.
When asked about the similarity, Bevin said he has not "really been paying attention" to Grimes' "arguments, but if she makes that point then I would say in that instance maybe she's on to something."
Despite taking on Goliath, Bevin said convincing people on the ground hasn't been difficult for him, saying it just amounts to convincing Kentuckians "there is a credible alternative."
"They just want to know that if they jump out of the pan they are not going to land right in the fire," said Bevin, and as for how nasty and personal the race has already become, he said McConnell is "becoming a caricature of what he should be as a U.S. senator and that is a shame, it really is a shame because he has brought it to a level that is beneath the dignity of the office he holds."
McConnell's campaign spokesperson Allison Moore responded to Bevin's interview with a statement saying, "Matt Bevin's sharp pivot back towards his centrist views was inevitable given that Kentucky voters found his makeover as a firebrand no-compromise conservative as believable as his MIT diploma. Watching Matt tack from one ideological position to the opposite is a sad example of a candidate searching desperately to justify his candidacy."
Bevin and McConnell will face off in the Kentucky Senate primary on May 20th. The winner will go on to face Grimes in November.
This story has been updated since it was first posted.