Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Bunning launches bus tour
Final segment of campaign starts in Wilder
By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer
WILDER - Shrouded in the thick mist of a Licking River valley fog, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning kicked off the final leg of his re-election campaign Monday morning.
Before a crowd of about 100 supporters, family, friends and local GOP elected officials Bunning, a Southgate Republican, set out Monday on a five-day, 25-county bus tour of Kentucky. The trip is the campaign's final push against the challenge of state Sen. Dr. Daniel Mongiardo, a Hazard Democrat.
"Over the last six years in the United States Senate, I have fought hard to provide a better life for the people of Northern Kentucky," Bunning said in the parking lot of the Marquis Banquet Center in Wilder, where the tour originated. "And I hope I can count on their support come Nov. 2."
Before departing on a big blue bus with "Bunning for Senate" signs in the windows, the senator touted his record in Washington, including securing more than $40 million in federal funds for highway, sewer, flood prevention, community improvement and airport construction projects.
Bunning, a member of Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame, said he voted in favor of adding a voluntary prescription drug benefit to the Medicare program, which will benefit 44,000 Northern Kentucky residents.
"I have helped pass important tax relief for Kentucky's families, a new prescription drug law that will provide our seniors with access to more affordable health care, and I have stood firm with President Bush in the war on terror," he said.
Hanging over Bunning's campaign are a move in the polls by Mongiardo and rumors about his health.
According to a Louisville Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll released Sunday, Mongiardo has cut Bunning's lead, which once stood at more than 20 points, to just six points.
Bunning did not address the rumors about his health Monday, though he previously accused the Mongiardo campaign of spreading untrue and "disgusting" rumors.
While Bunning didn't talk about them, several of his supporters did.
Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery said Bunning has had to endure a campaign full of "lies and half-truths." And Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said Mongiardo's campaign is "the dirtiest I have ever seen."
Mongiardo said it is Bunning that has run the negative campaign, including a TV ad that criticized Mongiardo for billing Medicaid for $3 million. The ad showed the picture of a brick Georgian-style mansion and identified it as Mongiardo's home.
But the home was not Mongiardo's - he lives in a more modest ranch-style home - and the Medicaid billings came over 13 years. Medicaid is the taxpayer-supported program that provides health care to the poor and disabled.
"It's clear that Kentucky voters are rejecting Sen. Bunning's negative campaigning of attack and distortion," Mongiardo said in reacting to the poll. "Instead, Kentucky families want a senator who will work to lower the cost of health care, make prescription drugs more affordable and create jobs in Kentucky."
Mongiardo is on a tour of his own. Dubbed the "Health Care Express," he is traveling in a recreational vehicle. He plans to make 40 stops over the next several days and is due to land tonight at 8:30 at Northern Kentucky Democratic Headquarters, 302 Court St. in Covington.
"Dan has spent more time in Northern Kentucky than any other statewide candidate in memory," said Milly Diehl, a Kenton County Democratic activist. "He has developed deep friendships and connections with our communities. There is no doubt that he will represent our region and the state with dignity, compassion and commitment."
Williams might have touched off another controversy while traveling Monday with Bunning.
At two campaign stops Williams used "limp wrist" and "switch hitter" to describe Mongiardo, who is single.
"Jim Bunning is fully capable of still throwing that hard pitch from the mound, and his opponent is a switch-hitter who doesn't know whether he's on left or right," Williams said at one stop. At another, he told Bunning supporters, "We don't want to change a hard right for a limp wrist."
Later, Williams said he was speaking in athletic parlance.
"There's no sexual connotation," he said. "That's just not what I was talking about."
Mongiardo, however, called Williams' remarks a "desperate attempt at character assassination, adding, "They will go to any lengths, including lying about who I am."
BUNNING'S LOCAL SUPPORT STRONG
A statewide Bluegrass Poll published Sunday by
Even though Bunning's support has slipped from earlier polls, his support in his native Northern Kentucky remains strong. The Bluegrass Poll indicated that among the region's voters Bunning is supported by 66 percent compared to 21 percent for Mongiardo, with 13 percent undecided.