Sunday, August 8, 2004

Democratic foe throwing high, hard ones at Bunning

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FANCY FARM - Democrat Daniel Mongiardo, given a rare shot at his opponent at Kentucky's most storied political event, lit into U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning on Saturday as an "out of touch" incumbent with "no heat left on his fast ball."

Mongiardo, a state senator from Hazard, had to make the most of his time in the spotlight of the 124th Fancy Farm Picnic, the kickoff of Kentucky's fall campaign season. He has a fraction of Bunning's public recognition and campaign money.

But Mongiardo seemed to get a break in the long afternoon of political speech making because Bunning, a baseball Hall of Famer and Republican who is running for a second term, preceded him to the podium.

Bunning earlier in the day had been fiery and defiant. He got an ovation from a Republican breakfast audience by declaring: "Nobody's going to take my seat in November."

But at Fancy Farm, with a bank of television news cameras on hand, Bunning used most of his time on the stage to tick off a detailed list of congressional initiatives. He largely ignored his opponent.

A typical Bunning line: "I've pushed for real tax relief" - a reference to his vote for a $1,000-per-child income tax credit.

He also got cheers from most of the crowd with an affirmation of his opposition to abortion, support for gun owners' rights and a plug for the proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages - all salient issues in this region, the conservative Jackson Purchase.

Mongiardo, himself a gun enthusiast and supporter in the General Assembly of the marriage amendment, quickly said so - and then leaped to the attack.

"Jim Bunning may be a Hall of Fame pitcher, but the truth is there's no heat left on his fast ball," Mongiardo shouted to a throng about evenly divided between Democrat and Republican hecklers.

Mongiardo said Bunning has had to "perfect curve balls to take away his failure to provide energy and leadership for Kentucky."

Mongiardo also turned to Bunning, seated in the front row on the speaker's platform, and challenged him to debates in each of the six congressional districts. Bunning did not react to the challenge and left the platform without stopping for reporters. But he indicated, to a shouted question, that he would not consent to such debates.

Mongiardo hardly escaped the day unmarked. In an earlier speech, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell ridiculed Mongiardo, a surgeon, as "Dr. Who" and "Dr. No" and someone who would be "completely wrong for Kentucky" in the Senate.

"I did a little research on Dr. Who," said McConnell, who has proven himself a master of withering sarcasm at Fancy Farm. "Dr. Who is a millionaire doctor who is trying to buy this election. It's a darn good thing he's got money because no one else is contributing to him."

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