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McConnell unveils TV ad in Ky. promoting his conservative credentials ahead of GOP primary

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FRANKFORT, Kentucky — U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promotes his role in blocking higher taxes and protecting fishing rights in a TV campaign ad aimed at reinforcing his conservative credentials against his political newcomer opponent Matt Bevin, who is trying to win over Republicans by taking on the political establishment.

The 30-second ad debuting Monday across Kentucky calls McConnell a "genuine Kentucky workhorse" in touting the advantage of his incumbency in the primary against Bevin.

The message is backed by a "significant" six-figure ad buy amounting to one of the largest of the campaign by the five-term Republican, his campaign said. It comes less than a month before the Kentucky primary on May 20.

In another development, Bevin's campaign underwent a late shake up with the departure of his main campaign spokeswoman, Rachel Semmel. The campaign said Semmel, who was hired by Bevin last year, decided to pursue another career opportunity and was no longer with the campaign.

"The Bevin campaign is grateful for all she did for the team and wishes Rachel the best in her future endeavors," the campaign said.

Awaiting the GOP primary winner will likely be Alison Lundergan Grimes, the clear favorite in the Democratic Senate primary. Grimes, who is Kentucky's secretary of state, hasn't run her first TV ad of the campaign.

Grimes has been able to watch McConnell and his primary challenger bash each other in competing ads.

The latest McConnell commercial doesn't mention Bevin. Instead, it promotes McConnell's role in negotiations at the end of 2012 that avoided across-the-board tax increases. The ad says the agreement saved 99 percent of Kentuckians from an income tax increase.

The ad also highlights McConnell's successful push to preserve access to prime fishing spots below dams along the Cumberland River in Kentucky. The legislation, signed by President Barack Obama, blocked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from restricting fishing in tailwaters near dams along the river.

The ad also continues two of McConnell's main themes — his opposition to the Affordable Care Act and stricter federal regulations of the coal industry.

"No one works harder than Sen. McConnell to protect Kentuckians from President Obama and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid's harmful, anti-Kentucky agenda," said McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore.

The latest ad also foreshadows McConnell's likely strategy, if he wins the GOP nomination, to try to link Grimes to Obama. The Democratic president lost badly in Kentucky while winning his two White House elections.

Grimes campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton took issue with the ad's characterization of McConnell as a "workhorse."

"It's curious that a self-described 'workhorse' hasn't found the time to propose a jobs plan in the face of these trying economic times," Norton said.

The ad also drew criticism from the Bevin campaign.

Bevin campaign spokeswoman Sarah Durand said Kentucky conservatives "are paying enough attention to know this is simply more campaign rhetoric and empty promises" from McConnell. McConnell's talk in Kentucky doesn't match his voting record in Washington, she said.

Bevin, a Louisville businessman, disputes McConnell's conservative record, saying the senator has caved in to Obama.

"I will never compromise our conservative principles," Bevin says in one ad. "Kentucky needs a fighter in Washington with the courage to stand up and take on Obama."

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