By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT WRIGHT - With more than $5 million raised, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning is on pace to set a record for his November re-election campaign.
Bunning, a Southgate Republican seeking a second Senate term, raised $658,680 during the first quarter of the year. He has nearly $3.7 million cash on hand, according to the federal campaign finance report he released Friday.
Bunning has already raised more money - $5.1 million - than he did during his 1998 Senate race. Then, he brought in $3.7 million to beat Lexington Democrat Scotty Baesler.
In a statement, Bunning's campaign said "it passed the $5 million mark faster than any other U.S. Senate campaign in Kentucky history and is on target to break all fund-raising records for the race."
In a stark comparison that portends a difficult race for Democrats, state Sen. Dr. Dan Mongiardo of Hazard in eastern Kentucky reported raising $174,203 for the quarter and had $242,847 cash on hand.
Mongiardo does plan to turn his attention to raising money now that the General Assembly session has ended, campaign spokesman Eric Niloff said.
"Sen. Mongiardo looks forward to concentrating on fund-raising after devoting much of the last quarter representing the people of the 30th (Senate) District in the state Senate," Niloff said.
Niloff said Mongiardo has also recently brought on fund-raiser Chantel McCormick, who was finance director for U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler's special election victory earlier this year in Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District.
"The new finance team raised over $150,000 in the past two weeks of March," Niloff said. "These are very encouraging signs."
But Mongiardo, a relative unknown in most parts of the state, does not enjoy Bunning's fund-raising network, which extends to all 120 Kentucky counties.
"The broad-based backing I've received proves that the work we are doing in the Senate is having a positive impact on the families of Kentucky," Bunning said.
"I've been a leader in Washington to help turn around the economy and create jobs, ensure our most needy seniors have access to quality, affordable health care including a Medicare prescription drug benefit, and support our troops as they combat terrorism at home and abroad.
"I am going to continue to work hard to get the job done for Kentucky and raise the necessary funds to run an effective, strategic and aggressive effort that gets our message across and enables us to manage a formidable campaign," he said.
Bunning and Mongiardo are opposed in their respective primaries but are the presumed nominees for the November election.
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