Saturday, October 23, 2004

Dems bet against Bunning



By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

ELECTION SECTION
Election 2004 page
Democrats are placing a big and unexpected bet on trying to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Jim Bunning.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has purchased more than $815,000 worth of television time to air commercials designed to help Democratic candidate Dan Mongiardo. The commercials will run through the election.

"The race has tightened up," committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse told the Enquirer Friday. "And Bunning himself has opened up this race with his behavior."

Bunning holds a huge financial advantage over his rival, a physician and state senator. But even Republicans concede privately that a once formidable lead has dwindled under a series of controversial comments and rumors about his health.

Wednesday, Bunning opened a campaign trip around the state and accused his rival of spreading rumors about his mental health.

"The rumors that have been spread by my opponent about my health are disgusting," Bunning said. "People who know me know the truth."

Mongiardo dismissed the charge as "just another absurd comment," and questioned what he called his opponent's "bizarre conduct."

Democrats in Washington have paid little attention to Kentucky's Senate race until recent polling showed the race tightening.

But Bunning is also aggressively campaigning and spending money.

He has raised more than $6 million, a record for a U.S. Senate race in Kentucky. As much as $4 million of that has gone into television advertising.

On Monday, Bunning is scheduled to kick off a five-day, 25-county bus tour of the state, beginning at 8:15 a.m. at the Marquise Banquet and Conference Center in Wilder.

Kentucky Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, and Secretary of State Trey Grayson of Boone County are scheduled to participate.

"The Bush-Bunning team is going to win Kentucky, and if the liberal Kerry-Mongiardo crew wants to waste even more money here, then that's fine," said Bunning campaign manager David Young. "The Bush-Bunning team still has twice as many resources right now and the right message."

The Associated Press contributed. E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com




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