Sunday, October 31, 2004
Senate campaign comes down to barbs over Ten Commandments
Bunning attempts to deflect criticism from Mongiardo
By Murray Evans
The Associated Press
FLORENCE - U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, accused by opponent Daniel Mongiardo of breaking two of the Ten Commandments with recent campaign rhetoric, deflected the Democrat's contention at a rally on Saturday.
"I think we've all broken the Ten Commandments," Bunning said after a morning speech before about 125 supporters at Boone County Republican headquarters. "No one is an exception to that."
At a stop in Elizabethtown, Mongiardo spoke about health care and declined to attack Bunning.
Instead, Mongiardo said the momentum in the campaign has shifted away from the incumbent, prompting the personal attacks by surrogates for Bunning.
"You can feel it. The other side can feel it," Mongiardo told a crowd of about 50 at Lake Freeman Park. "I refuse to get down on their level because Kentuckians deserve so much better."
Mongiardo has complained of harsh attacks by Bunning supporters - including David Williams, the Kentucky Senate president. Williams referred to Mongiardo as a "limp wrist" several times while campaigning in recent days with Bunning, 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."
Mongiardo, a 44-year-old bachelor, has said he is not gay and said Friday that Bunning violated the commandments against "false witness" and killing, the latter because Bunning had attacked Mongiardo's character.
Bunning has not disavowed the comments of his surrogates, saying he does not control what they say and that they have no official role in the campaign.
Mongiardo brought out his own supporter, former governor and U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, on Saturday. Ford took on Bunning over his surrogates' comments, saying it is disingenuous to not take responsibility for what they say.
"Hell, you got him with you, he's speaking for you," Ford said of Williams.
Ford also blasted Bunning for running ads criticizing Mongiardo about his home and airplane. The ad featured a picture of a house and airplane that weren't Mongiardo's.
"I don't understand how you can do that to people and get away with it," Ford said.
Bunning said Saturday his comments about the Ten Commandments weren't limited to campaign behavior.
"I'm just talking about life in general," he said. "I'm no perfect person, and God help us, neither is he," referring to Mongiardo.
"When you start spreading personal attacks immediately after the primary that my mental state and my physical well-being are not very good and won't qualify me to be senator for the next six years, that's a really personal, total and complete lie," the 73-year-old Bunning said. "So, it's been downhill since then."
Among the supporters at the Bunning rally Saturday morning was Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Boone County Republican who said he doesn't have an official role with Bunning's campaign.
"It's unfortunate that it's gotten bitter," Grayson said of the campaign rhetoric. "Close races tend to do that, though. But at the end of the day, Jim is going to prevail. He's a good, decent person and he's provided a lot of years of good representation."
Grayson said he now thinks as many as 70 percent of registered voters in Kentucky will cast ballots. In recent days, he estimated that number to be in the mid-60s.
Bunning, whose sizable lead over Mongiardo has narrowed in a Bluegrass Poll by the Courier-Journal, said during his eight-minute speech Saturday that his re-election was not guaranteed.
"No election in Kentucky is a slam dunk," Bunning said.
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