Saturday, October 30, 2004
'Limp wrist' charge angers Mongiardo
By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press
HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. - Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo on Friday accused U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning of breaking two of the Ten Commandments by allowing supporters to make personal attacks that seemed to suggest Mongiardo is gay.
Mongiardo said he decided to counterpunch after his 78-year-old father told him to fight back against the insinuations, which the candidate said are untrue. As a state senator, Mongiardo - a 44-year-old bachelor - co-sponsored a proposal on Kentucky's ballot next week that would add a same-sex marriage ban to the state constitution.
"Everything they've done has been pure lies," Mongiardo said of Bunning while speaking at a rally in this western Kentucky city, where hours earlier a prominent Republican traveling with Bunning repeated his reference to Mongiardo as a "limp wrist."
Mongiardo, a surgeon from Hazard, told about 75 supporters that he learned the Ten Commandments while attending a two-room Catholic school as a first- and second-grader in the Appalachian town. Mongiardo said the Republican attacks violate the commandment against "false witness."
The Democrat said the falsehoods also violated the commandment against killing.
"The nuns taught me that 'Do not kill' means more than kill somebody's life," Mongiardo said. "They said you're not supposed to attack somebody's character because the character is a part of your soul and the soul comes from heaven. So when Jim Bunning attacks my character he's breaking more than just 'Thou shalt not bear false witness.'"
Mongiardo, who replied "No" when asked by a reporter Wednesday if he is gay, said personal attacks against him don't represent Kentucky values.
"We need role models for our children to look up to, and this kind of behavior is not becoming of a Kentucky gentleman, much less a United States senator," Mongiardo said.
Bunning surrogate David Williams, the Kentucky Senate president, referred to Mongiardo as a "limp wrist" several times while campaigning with Bunning this week, including Friday in Hopkinsville.
Williams has said he intended no sexual connotation, but was speaking in sports parlance by saying that Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher, is still capable of "throwing that hard pitch from the mound."
Another Republican state senator, Elizabeth Tori, declared Wednesday that Mongiardo "is not a gentleman," and then added of her Senate colleague, "I'm not even sure the word 'man' applies to him."
Bunning, 73, who is seeking a second term, said in an interview with WHAS-AM radio in Louisville that he has no control over what Williams and other legislators say.
"That's their opinion. They can have it," Bunning told the station on Friday. "They don't belong to my campaign."
When questioned about whether he should speak to Williams about the comments, Bunning said the state senator is entitled to express his opinion.
"He's going to say what's on his mind," Bunning said. "God bless him for doing it."
The campaigns of Bunning and Mongiardo crossed paths Friday as both made stops at different times of the day in Russellville and Hopkinsville.
Bunning, who eked out a victory over Democrat Scotty Baesler by a few thousand votes in winning his first term six years ago, pumped up supporters in Russellville to get to the polls Tuesday.
"Without your help we're not going to get there," Bunning said. "We cannot take anything for granted."
Bunning stressed his experience in Congress, noting his assignment on the Senate Finance Committee and his role in passing a tobacco quota buyout.
"I know what I'm doing in Washington, D.C., and I've delivered for Kentucky," Bunning said.
At the same stop, Williams, a Burkesville Republican, branded Mongiardo's record as a state legislator as "undistinguished."
"He does not deserve a promotion," Williams said.
In Russellville, Williams did not repeat the "limp wrist" comment.
Mongiardo was accompanied Friday by former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, a Democratic icon in the state, during a campaign swing through western Kentucky. Mongiardo said the race is a dead heat and told the Hopkinsville crowd, "If we win this area we win this race."
Western Kentucky remains Democratic by registration, but its conservative voters have increasingly backed Republican candidates in federal races.
A statewide Bluegrass Poll published last Sunday in The Courier-Journal of Louisville showed that Mongiardo had whittled his deficit against Bunning to 6 points, down from 17 points a month earlier.
Mongiardo said in his speech that families have been burdened by sharply higher costs for health care and college tuition during Bunning's Senate tenure. Mongiardo has made health care a main theme of his campaign.
Ford, a former governor as well as U.S. senator, said Bunning had waged the nastiest campaign he had ever seen in Kentucky. Bunning, a former congressman from northern Kentucky, succeeded Ford in the Senate.
"The last time you saw Sen. Bunning was the last time you're going to see him because on Nov. 2 we're going to win this race," Ford said.
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