Cockfighting Takes Center Stage In McConnell-Bevin Primary

Mitchell McConnell Matt Bevin

The primary election in Kentucky pitting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell against Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin is just under a month away and, somehow, cockfighting has become the biggest issue in the election:

Yes, cockfighting. It’s the dominant issue at the moment in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. Bevin’s remarks a recent rally where attendees championed the legalization of the blood sport — illegal in Kentucky — in which roosters fight one another and spectators bet on the outcome have become the latest blow to his floundering campaign to unseat the Senate’s top Republican.

It all started with the revelation early this month that Bevin spoke at a pro-cockfighting rally in Corbin, a town in southeastern Kentucky, on March 29. Bevin later said he didn’t understand that he was at an event to rally support to legalize cockfighting.

“I was the first person to speak and then I left,” Bevin told the Corbin News Journal. “They knew I was here. They asked if I would be interested in speaking. I’m a politician running statewide, any chance I get to speak to a few hundred people I’m going to take it.” His now-former spokeswoman told the Louisville Courier-Journal, ”It was not a cockfighting rally, it was a states’ rights rally.”

The story lingered in the local media for a bit, then faded. But it resurfaced in aThursday WAVE TV report which detailed Bevin’s remarks at the March event, which included a response to a direct question about cockfighting. The report also included evidence that there was little ambiguity about the purpose of the gathering.

American Gamefowl Defense Director Dave Devereaux spoke before Bevin, reported WAVE’s John Boel, who attended the rally undercover. Devereaux explained the gathering was for “the sole purpose of legalizing gamecock fighting at the state level.” After Bevin spoke, Devreaux asked him if he would “support the effort to legalize gamecock fighting in the state of Kentucky.”

Bevin responded, “I support the people of Kentucky exercising their right, because it is our right to decide what it is that we want to do, and not the federal government’s. Criminalizing behavior, if it’s part of the heritage of this state, is in my opinion a bad idea. A bad idea. I will not support it,” according to Boel’s report.

McConnell’s campaign accused Bevin of lying about what he knew of the event.

“Twenty years from now, we will all remember the time when the East Coast con-man thought so little of Kentuckians that he pathologically lied to us about absolutely everything until an undercover camera caught him red-handed at a cockfighting rally,” said McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore.

This isn’t the first time that Bevin has been caught playing fast and loose with the truth. Earlier this year, he was criticizing McConnell for voting in favor of the TARP program in 2008 even though Bevin himself had endorsed TARP at the time.  Additionally, his campaign has been hampered by a combination of questionable statements by the candidates and straight up bad campaigning. There hasn’t been a poll conducting in the race in more than two months, after a February poll showed McConnell ahead by 42 points, while other polling had shown McConnell ahead by at least 24 points. While it’s possible that the race has tightened somewhat since those polls were taken, the combination of McConnell’s huge fundraising advantage and Bevin’s gaffes, including this cockfighting story, make it seem unlikely that McConnell is in any serious danger.

FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. legion says:

    There is no such thing as a competent candidate – or decent human being – in the Tea Party. The only chance they have at winning anything is if the other side gift wraps it for them. And McConnell, worthless as he is, is far too experienced to drop that ball. On the plus side, this is just the battle for the GOP primary – the general election ought to be a whole lot more stressful for the ‘ol turtle…

  2. James Pearce says:

    “”It was not a cockfighting rally, it was a states’ rights rally.””

    Ha! Here’s a useful guide:

    The subject of a random “states’ rights rally” will probably be dubious. That’s not to say it will always be dubious. But “state’s rights” often trucks in the unpopular or illegal.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Rule 101 in running for Congress: Never, ever, ever get yourself in a situation where you have to utter the word “cockfighting” and “state’s rights” in the same sentence.


  4. David in KC says:

    I saw the headline and went “wow” but then found out the story had something to do with chickens.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @David in KC:

    Dammit, I was just going to make that joke.

  6. rudderpedals says:

    Don’t bring a strap-on to a cockfight.

  7. David in KC says:

    @michael reynolds: Woo hoo.

    @rudderpedals: Crap, you win.

  8. Grewgills says:

    The strap on is probably harder and has more longevity. You may get disqualified from the cockfight, sorta like the sprinters with the bionic legs.

  9. sam says:

    The greatest cockfight ever filmed, from the movie Skin Deep.