Protest and praise greet Sen. Mitch McConnell during speech in r - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Protest and praise greet Sen. Mitch McConnell during speech in rural Kentucky

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LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. (WDRB) -- After a tumultuous month in Washington, D.C., Kentucky's senior senator is facing voters in Kentucky.

An appearance by Sen. Mitch McConnell brought both protest and praise.

Normally a McConnell trip to Lawrenceburg would not be hugely controversial. It is GOP territory. Both he and Donald Trump carried Anderson County easily. But these are not normal times.

The U.S. Senate Majority Leader was greeted by hundreds of protesters outside the American Legion Hall, where McConnell addressed the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce.  

The protest was organized by the Kentucky Democratic Party.

“I think this shows the energy that is building within the Democratic Party, and it's been absent for awhile,” party spokesman Daniel Lowry said.

The signs reflected a range of grievances. Brenda Rice of Winchester said she’s concerned about civil rights.

“I think we're heading back to the 50s, and it scares me,” Rice said.

Others said they are angry about what they believe is McConnell's ignoring of his constituents.

“He works for the party and not for the country or the state," said George Lundy of Louisville. "The only way to get his attention is by doing this."

Some even compared McConnell and President Trump to Hitler's henchmen.

“I'm saying that he's a Nazi. Mitch McConnell is also a Nazi," said Eric VonWeigen of Lexington. "I'm saying he's corrupt. They're all corrupt."

Inside, it was a different story. McConnell supporters said the protesters do not represent them.

“What Trump is trying to advocate, I just want those things to go through, because honestly my heart believes we'll have a better country,” said retired physician Andrew Bustin of Lawrenceburg.

McConnell told the crowd Congress is working to implement President Trump’s agenda from repealing and replacing Obamacare, to tax reform, to cutting business regulations, to approving Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

McConnell was critical of Senate Democrats for delaying the confirmation of the President’s cabinet, calling it the “slowest rate since George Washington.”

McConnell acknowledged the protests during his speech and afterward when speaking to reporters.

“I respect their right to express themselves,” McConnell said.

But the senator said he does not believe the protesters represent most of his constituency.

“Donald Trump carried 188 out of 120 counties," he said. "I don't think Kentucky is conflicted about which direction they wanted the country to go in."

But even McConnell says that while he likes what President Trump is doing, he does not always like the way he’s doing it.

“He's not going to take my advice, but I would not be tweeting so often, or I would be tweeting different things."

The conflict over McConnell's appearance in Lawrenceburg continued even as he was leaving. Police broke up a heated argument between supporters and opponents.

A similar protest is planned for Wednesday when McConnell appears in Louisville.

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