A number of prominent republicans in Northern Kentucky have had enough. They want someone to challenge Thomas Massie. They see Massie as a far right wing troublemaker with no interest in working within Congress for the benefit of his district, rather seemingly more concerned with pushing a political philosophy that is focused on protest and government shutdowns instead of building bridges and the economy.
In fact when Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce executive Steve Stevens announce recently that he was stepping down to pursue the "next chapter" in his career, he was approached immediately with questions whether he was going to challenge Massie. Stevens told me that he hasn't said no, but he hasn't said yes, yet, either.
Stevens family has been in Northern Kentucky for over 100 years he having lived in all three of the most central counties in the district, Boone, Kenton and Campbell in his lifetime. In discussing the rumors with him Steve began talking about the reasons why he thinks people have speculated that he might run. He knows the district, the people of the district and the needs of the district. He understands how to build coalitions of people to get things done. He has a working knowledge of how government and business and community leaders come together for the common good. Though he didn't say it, it was clear why others might find an easy contrast between Stevens qualities and the kind strident radical obstructionist tactics being used by Massie.
When I asked him about the rumors that some in the region were actively looking for someone to run, he said that he hears that talk and that his name only came up when people speculated about his reasons for leaving the Chamber. He assured me running for office was not why he was stepping down. "I felt like after 20 years it was time for someone else to bring their vision and energy to the Chamber. But running for office was mentioned to me almost immediately after I announced."
And that's not surprising. Over the past few months the National Chamber of Commerce has made some pretty strong statements about how they would treat those who supported the government shutdown and added their voice to the voices of other business related groups which vowed to spend lots of money supporting opponents of those like Massie, Amash and others in republican primaries.
The recent elections underlined a growing tension in political money circles: Business people are increasingly fed up with the activist wing of the Republican Party. It's a trend that will have broad implications for next year's midterm elections and the presidential race in 2016, political experts say.
In Alabama on Nov. 5, Republican Bradley Byrne beat tea party favorite Dean Young for a U.S. House seat in part because the business community rallied around him. In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe bested tea party-backed Republican Ken Cuccinelli partially because some conservative business donors wouldn't give to the GOP campaign—or even switched sides. And in New Jersey, moderate Republican Chris Christie crushed tea party candidate Seth Grossman in the primary and then Democrat Barbara Buono in the general election because of strong business support.
And there's more to come. Business interests appear to be rallying behind moderate Republicans Brian Ellis, David Trott and Mike Simpson against tea party-approved challengers Justin Amash, Kerry Bentivolio and Bryan Smith for House seats in 2014 (Ellis and Trott are running in Michigan and Simpson is in Idaho).[CNBC]
So when I asked Steve Stevens directly if there was anything he wanted me to say about the rumors that he was running, he said this "I haven't said no to anybody, but I haven't said yes either."
Stevens has been a significant asset to the people of Northern Kentucky at the Chamber so it is no wonder people would approach him to run. But whether he does or does not, one thing is clear, there is a serious and very well funded effort afoot to find someone to challenge Massie.