Some prominent Northern Kentucky Republicans have told the Enquirer they support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway.
The bitterness among many Republicans against the tea party, which has challenged many in leadership recent years, might catch up to Republican candidate Matt Bevin, often seen as an outsider candidate who has heavy tea party support.
In particular, Bevin's nasty primary challenge of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014 has left a sour taste in the mouths of some Republicans. They believe the lack of support for Bevin in his own party could allow Conway to win, despite Conway having to deal with President Barack Obama's unpopularity in the state.
"I think the chickens are coming home to roost," said Alexandria Republican Mike Combs, who has given $250 to Conway's campaign. "They made it such a personal attack in so many ways."
Bevin made so many enemies trying to beat Mitch McConnell last year that when he needs Republicans here in the NKY to turn out to support him, he's coming up empty handed.
The tension between traditional Republicans and the tea party wing that includes Bevin, who won the gubernatorial nomination largely by carrying Northern Kentucky, came to the surface in the keynote speech at last month's Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.
Incoming chamber chairman Dave Heidrich didn't directly name vocal conservative voters and groups such as the tea party in his speech. But he called out businesses to help current elected officials get things done.
"The business community must gather around our elected officials and provide support. They need to know they can take a bold position and not be immediately defeated by a small vocal minority in the next primary," said Heidrich, a registered Republican who has held a fundraiser for Conway this year.
In his speech, Heidrich specifically doubled down on the chamber's commitment to getting a new bridge next to the Brent Spence Bridge, a plan that tea party supports oppose because the plan currently relies on tolls. The crowd of more than 500 at the dinner loudly applauded Heidrich.
Conway's campaign website lists a group of 24 leading Republicans, known as Republicans for Conway. Two locals on the list are Campbell County real estate broker Ken Perry and lawyer Michael Plummer.
Could less than complete GOP support keep Bevin from winning?
Bevin and Conway remain close in the polls, with the last Bluegrass Poll at the end of September by the Louisville Courier-Journal showing Conway leading Bevin 42 percent to 37 percent. The poll showed tepid support among their bases for both candidates, with 16 percent of registered Democrats saying they'd vote for Bevin and 15 percent of registered Republicans saying they'd vote for Conway. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
And that's true, with Conway up by five and Bevin finding burnt bridges around every corner, Conway just might pull this off.