By Roger Alford
The Associated Press
PIKEVILLE - Daniel Mongiardo called on eastern Kentucky's Democratic Party faithful on Wednesday to help defeat Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, while the incumbent also worked to rally supporters.
"We have an opportunity to elect the first senator from eastern Kentucky," Mongiardo said during a campaign stop in Pike County, a Democratic stronghold and home of former Gov. Paul Patton. "We have got to have a big vote out of eastern Kentucky."
At a Bunning rally in Elizabethtown, about 100 people gathered to listen to his surrogates bash Mongiardo while Bunning focused on the federal dollars brought to Kentucky in the last six years.
"I support George W. Bush most of the time ... because I'm a team player," said Bunning, who also ticked off a list of roughly $86 million in federal projects brought to Kentucky in the last six years. "You can get a lot done in the Senate if you don't care who gets credit."
Bunning was joined at the rally by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is on the Appropriations Committee, which controls the government's purse strings.
Mongiardo supporters, including former first lady Judi Patton, crowded into a courtroom in the Pike County Courthouse for a rally Wednesday. Paul Patton, who hasn't been publicly active since leaving office, did not attend.
The former governor, who had planned to run for the Senate before an extramarital affair ended his career, has helped with fund-raisers.
"I'm glad to have his support," Mongiardo said.
Ads by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee began running Wednesday.
The ads attack Bunning as being "out of touch."
The ad shows video from last week when Bunning told reporters: "Let me explain something: I don't watch the national news, and I don't read the paper."
The ad is part of the $800,000 worth of television time the committee purchased recently to help Mongiardo.
"Maybe Jim Bunning missed the news about 79,000 kids with no health coverage when he voted against children's health care," a voiceover on the ad says.
Bunning may have given Democrats more fodder Wednesday. Television video of Bunning at St. Catharine College in Springfield showed him refer to the wrong date of "November the 11th" while speaking about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, Dan Allen, a spokesman for the Republican National Senatorial Committee, said his committee has put in about $450,000 to help pay for two pro-Bunning television ads running in Kentucky.
"The Senate Democrats talk about Kentucky being a sleeper race but ultimately this is going to be another nightmare for them, because ultimately the team of Senator Bunning and President Bush are going to prevail and the Democrats are going to come up empty," Allen said.
Two of Mongiardo's statehouse colleagues traveling with Bunning kept up personal comments about Mongiardo, who closed a double-digit lead by Bunning to six points in a poll published Sunday.
"I served with Dr. Dan - let me tell you he is not a gentleman," said state Sen. Elizabeth Tori, R-Elizabethtown. "I'm not even sure the word 'man' applies to him."
Those attending the Bunning rally laughed and applauded the remark.
State Senate President David Williams referred to McConnell and Bunning as a "one-two punch" in Washington.
"We don't want to trade that one-two punch for a limp wrist," Williams said, repeating comments he made earlier in the week on the Bunning tour. Asked to explain the remark, he has said he meant no sexual connotation.
"It's apparent that the Jim Bunning campaign in the final week is a gutter campaign, a campaign of sleaze and smear," said Mongiardo campaign manager Kim Geveden. "These are just more outrageous smear attacks by a candidate and a campaign that is desperate and on the ropes."
McConnell criticized Mongiardo for bringing in Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to campaign for him this week.
"This guy's not sharp enough to be in the Senate," McConnell said of Mongiardo. "We had Harkin yesterday. Maybe we'll have Edward Kennedy tomorrow, Hillary Clinton on Saturday and Bill Clinton on Monday. Come on down."
Mongiardo made stops Wednesday in Ashland, Pikeville, Prestonsburg and Morehead, touting coal as an alternative that would help the United States rid itself of dependence on foreign oil.
He also promoted a plan to help small businesses insure their employees.
"There are over 600,000 Kentuckians without health insurance, and it's time to do something about it," Mongiardo said.
Mongiardo said he wants to provide tax relief that will allow small businesses to recover up to half of the cost of employee health insurance. He said he also wants to help small businesses leverage lower costs for health insurance by allowing them to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Today Bunning's bus will make stops in western Kentucky, including Madisonville and Paducah. Mongiardo's campaign stops todayinclude Lexington, Louisville and Frankfort.
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