By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
LOUISVILLE - The Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police on Wednesday endorsed Daniel Mongiardo for U.S. Senate, citing his support of collective bargaining for police officers.
Mongiardo, a Democrat from Hazard, is running against Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, who is seeking a second term.
Mongiardo, at a news conference with FOP leaders, poked fun at a recently publicized request for police in Paducah to provide extra security for Bunning while the incumbent visited that city.
Bunning campaign manager David Young said Mongiardo's comments reflected a "negative campaign of desperation to make light of terrorists and the threats they pose. But then again, maybe our opponent just doesn't get it."
Bunning, who has a huge advantage in campaign fund-raising, recently indicated he would not consent to appear with his opponent in public debates.
"Everyone knows that Jim Bunning is afraid to answer the people of Kentucky by debating on the issues," Mongiardo said. "Now it appears that he is even afraid of the voters of Kentucky."
Mongiardo accepted the FOP's endorsement near a memorial to slain law enforcement officers at a park in downtown Louisville.
Young said in a statement that the incumbent is supported by "rank and file law enforcement officers and their families." Young also said Bunning would "continue to champion the issues important to the law enforcement community."
Martin Scott, president of the state FOP, cited Mongiardo's support for collective bargaining in addition to Mongiardo's credentials as a surgeon.
"Who better to help straighten out the mess of our health care system, prescription drug system and our Medicare system than a practicing physician?" Scott said.
Scott also took issue with a Bunning comment early in the campaign in which the senator said Mongiardo looks like one of Saddam Hussein's sons.
"To us, he looks like hope, hope for all of Kentucky," Scott said of Mongiardo, a son of Italian immigrants.
Mongiardo said Bunning has a record of voting against extra funding for police and other emergency workers, making his own request for extra police protection "bizarre."
Bunning "wants more protection for himself than he's willing to fund," Mongiardo said. "Someone should ask Senator Bunning what is more likely: al-Qaida is waiting for him at the Quilters Museum in Paducah, or that another Kentucky schoolchild will be approached by a drug dealer?"
Another Bunning spokesman previously said the upgraded protection didn't stem from a specific threat.
Meanwhile, both candidates have compiled an array of endorsements.
Mongiardo's endorsements include the AFL-CIO, United Mine Workers and the Kentucky Education Association.
Bunning has been endorsed by, among others, the Kentucky Medical Association's political action committee, the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee.
Bunning plans to visit Hopkinsville on Friday with former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.
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