OUISVILLE, Ky. -- More than a dozen tea party groups in Kentucky have united to try to oust Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary, arguing that he is too moderate and has only "paid lip service" to their cause.
The United Tea Party of Kentucky, comprised of 17 smaller tea party and "patriot" groups around the state, signed a press release this week promising to oppose McConnell.
"We're looking right now at anybody that has a possibility of retiring Senator McConnell," said John T. Kemper III, the group's spokesman.
But the Louisville Tea Party has decided not to join the effort, its leaders saying they are worried that the group couldn't field a candidate strong enough to win the November general election.
McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, didn't immediately respond to a request for an interview.
Other than Kemper, who says he is considering a campaign, no potential challengers have come forward publicly.
Kemper, a 2011 candidate for state auditor, said the tea party groups believe that McConnell's record — dating to his time as Jefferson County judge-executive from 1978 through 1984 — makes him a moderate rather than a conservative.
The tea party and McConnell have had a strained relationship since the organizations sprang up around the country in the weeks after President Barack Obama was sworn in for his first term four years ago.
While the groups' harshest rhetoric has been directed at Obama and Democrats, the tea party has also been critical of Republicans who have voted for increasing federal debt, backed the Troubled Asset Relief Program, raised the debt ceiling and done other things anathema to the fiscally conservative organizations.