Thursday, September 23, 1999

Bunning versus Patton: No love lost

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Somebody get a bucket of cold water and throw it on Gov. Paul Patton and U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning.

        These two are chewing on each other like the lunch crowd tearing into the buffet at the Speak Easy in Crescent Springs.

        Mr. Bunning's recent endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Peppy Martin, Mr. Patton's challenger in the November election, touched off the latest round of name-calling, finger-pointing, mouth-smashing barbs these two high-powered pols seem to trade every few months.

        Last November, Mr. Bunning, fresh off his Senate victory over Lexington Democrat Scotty Baesler, fueled the feud when he vowed to help “take Patton down” in this year's gubernatorial race.

        Mr. Bunning also went off on Mr. Patton at least twice in 1996.

        During a speech to the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Bunning warned Mr. Patton about raising money for Democratic candidates.

        At the time, Mr. Patton and some aides and campaign workers were being investigated for allegedly breaking state campaign finance laws in the '95 governor's race. The charges eventually proved unfounded.

        Also in 1996, Mr. Bunning chimed in on allegations that Mr. Patton and members of his family received free fill dirt from a road contractor on land controlled by Judi Patton, Mr. Patton's wife.

        “It is not acceptable to have those in high office profit from their office,” Mr. Bunning said.

        Angering Mr. Bunning was Mr. Patton's insistence that he did nothing wrong by accepting the dirt.

        “This has nothing to do with my being governor,” Mr. Patton said.

        Mr. Patton has accused Mr. Bunning of snubbing him in Washington earlier this year by canceling the meeting the two had scheduled.

        Mr. Bunning said he was not aware of the meeting.

        Well, on Wednesday Mr. Patton was in Washington seeking funding for the cleanup on the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, where employees have told of having to handle uranium-contaminated materials.

        While in Washington, Mr. Patton met with Sen. Mitch McConnell and 1st District Rep. Ed Whitfield, both Republicans.

        But a meeting with Mr. Bunning wasn't planned, nor was one held.

        There is nothing wrong with politicians keeping one another on their toes. But these two are on a collision course, and it looks like the political carnage will occur in the 2004 U.S. Senate race, when Mr. Patton plans to take on Mr. Bunning.

        Climbing on the Peppy bandwagon. Speaking of the aforementioned Ms. Martin, several area GOP leaders have endorsed her campaign.

        Among those throwing in with Peppy were 4th District GOP Chairman Jay Hall and the Republican Party chairs from Boone (Ed Moore), Kenton (Greg Shumate), Campbell (Sam Smith), Grant (Russell Jarvis), Gallatin (Bill LeGrand) and Pendleton (William Verax III) counties.

        The GOP leaders are justifying their late endorsements by saying Ms. Martin has changed her position on abortion.

        Previously, Ms. Martin has said abortion shouldn't be an issue in politics or government.

        So now Ms. Martin is saying that if elected she would sign pro-life legislation passed by the General Assembly.

        You think, just maybe, that Peppy is telling the boys what they want to hear? Or are they telling her what to say?

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics for The Kentucky Enquirer. His column appears Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 578-5581, or (502) 875-7526 in Frankfort, or by e-mail at