Friday, October 22, 2004

Bunning, Bush leads solidify

Gay-marriage ban also widely favored in Ky. poll

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

Election 2004 page
FORT WRIGHT - Sen. Jim Bunning and President Bush are leading their competition, and the state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages is widely favored by Kentucky likely voters, according to a new independent poll.

In the SurveyUSA poll, Bunning, a Southgate Republican, leads Democrat Daniel Mongiardo, a state senator from eastern Kentucky, 53 percent to 39 percent.

Despite a string of news stories in the last two weeks that focused on rumors that Bunning was in poor health - and which Bunning vehemently denied - Mongiardo is losing ground in the Survey-USA poll.

"Jim Bunning finishes the game," said David Young, campaign manager for the former major-league baseball player. "He's a closer. The big right-hander will be on the mound for Kentucky in the U.S. Senate for another six years."

Bunning has said he has no health problems and has blamed Mongiardo's campaign for spreading the rumors. Mongiardo campaign manager Kim Geveden has denied Bunning's claim.

Geveden also questioned the results of the poll.

"Both campaigns have internal polls showing the race much closer," he said.

The poll also shows Bush leading Democrat John Kerry by 22 points, 59 percent to 37 percent.

Backers of the amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage in Kentucky are leading 73 percent to 24 percent, the poll shows. It was conducted Oct. 17 to Oct. 19 for two Kentucky TV stations, WHAS in Louisville and WLEX in Lexington.

The automated phone poll of 629 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Meanwhile, Bunning has turned down an offer to debate Sunday on Meet The Press, a nationally televised news program.

"The election is in Kentucky, not Washington D.C.," Young said. "Instead, Sen. Bunning will go to church with his family, and he's also ramping up for his Statewide Victory 2004 Bus Tour next week."

Meet The Press has been featuring Senate candidates over the last several weeks in 30-minute debates moderated by host Tim Russert.

"Since the race was getting a little closer, taking a little more national prominence, we decided to send an invitation" to Kentucky's Senate candidates, said Betsy Fischer, the executive producer.

Mongiardo accepted but Bunning declined, Fischer said.

Bunning said more than a month ago that he would debate Mongiardo only once. The two debated last week in Lexington. Earlier this week, Mongiardo appeared alone on a KET program.

"It's sad that Sen. Bunning continues to hide behind a million-dollar ad campaign, rather than debating how to improve the lives of Kentucky families," Mongiardo said.

Enquirer reporter Carl Weiser contributed


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