“I think the Violence Against Women Act — first of all, I don’t know anyone who is a proponent of violence against women,” Bevin said. “But there are certain provisions in the latest VAWA that were attempting to broaden it so it wasn’t just women. And there is a way to go about these things. My biggest issue is there are certain portions of that Act that are unconstitutional, and fly in the face of constitutional precedent. Trying to fix a problem with another problem is not a solution. And that is the case here.”
The conservative candidate took issue with a provision in the re-authorized VAWA that lets Native American courts try non-Native Americans accused of assault on tribal lands, without recourse in U.S. courts. At the time, numerous Republicans and conservative advocates made the same complaint. Most Republicans in both chambers of Congress voted against the legislation, which also expands protections for LGBT women and undocumented immigrants.
“It is in violation of the United States Constitution,” Bevin told TPM. “It has nothing to do with my belief that women shouldn’t be protected. I’m married and I have 6 daughters. This is a real problem in America. It exists. I’m very sensitive to this issue.”
Bevin is challenging Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the GOP primary next spring. The McConnell campaign recently portrayed the GOP leader as a supporter of VAWA even though he has consistently voted against it.
Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes is a strong proponent of VAWA and has made it a campaign issue.
“It’s unfortunate that both Republican Senate candidates in Kentucky oppose the Violence Against Women Act,” Grimes’ senior adviser Jonathan Hurst said in a statement to TPM. “Mitch McConnell, Senator Gridlock himself, repeatedly voted against the VAWA and now Matt Bevin says he opposes it as well. Alison Lundergan Grimes is the only candidate in this race who will stand up for the women of Kentucky.”
Updated at 1:15 pm ET to include a late comment from the Grimes campaign.