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Rallies Held To Protest Bunning

by Gabe Bullard

Demonstrations are were held across Kentucky Tuesday to urge Senator Jim Bunning to stop blocking an extension of unemployment benefits. At a rally in Louisville, about 50 demonstrators criticized the senator for his actions.

Out of work industrial painter Robert Smith came to the protest after learning his unemployment checks would stop coming next week.

“I went up there to find out, because I ordered my last check yesterday and it was only a piece of a check and I went up there to see if the final extension was there. I talked to my foremen at my work, and we have the work, but nobody wants to start it because of the stinking economy.”

The rally in Louisville was one of three in Kentucky organized by Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Bunning’s seat. Mongiardio’s Democratic competitors Jack Conway and Maurice Sweeney have also spoken out against Bunning. Republican candidates Rand Paul and Trey Grayson say they support Bunning’s maneuver.

Bunning says he supports the benefits’ extension and other elements of the package that’s stalled in the Senate, but will continue to block the legislation until it’s paid for.

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Local News

Bunning Blocks Jobless Benefits Extension

by Gabe Bullard

Listen to NPR’s coverage of this story here.

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning’s blockage Friday of an extension of jobless benefits is unlikely to be felt by any recipients of those benefits this coming week.

Bunning repeatedly objected to a 10 billion dollar bill that would, among other things, extend certain jobless benefits.

Bunning objected because he didn’t want to run up the national debt, and with the Senate adjourned for the weekend, jobless benefits will expire for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans.

The unemployed can still file Monday for their entitled benefits for the week, but unless an extension is passed, those benefits will not be renewed next week.

The program expiring offers several weeks of additional money after other benefits are exhausted. Other unemployment benefits will remain in place.

Congress has traditionally extended unemployment benefits retroactively if they expire.

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Local News

KY Senators Defeated on Concealed Weapons

Kentucky Senators Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell were on the losing side of a vote today on an amendment to grant citizens with concealed weapons permits in their home state the right to carry those concealed weapons in other states.  The amendment fell two votes short of the 60 votes it needed to pass.

Although it was mostly Republicans backing the amendment, some Democrats joined them, including Indiana’s Evan Bayh.  But Indiana’s other Senator, the Republican Richard Luger, voted against the measure.  Opponents argued the amendment would endanger lives. Supporters argued that current gun laws are confusing.

Kentucky already maintains agreements with other states to allow its residents to carry their concealed weapons there.

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Local News

Will Says McConnell Is In A Tough Spot With Bunning

georgewill-002

Click here for full audio of Will’s remarks to the press.

Washington Post columnist George Will visited Louisville yesterday Wednesday to speak to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.

When asked about Senator Jim Bunning’s pledge to seek a third term, Will said the Republican’s poll numbers are daunting, and suggested that another candidate would stand a better chance against a Democratic challenger.

Will says Bunning’s persistence puts fellow Republican Senator Mitch McConnell in a tough spot, politically.

“Senator McConnell is the leader not just of the Republican Party of Kentucky, but he’s the leader or Republicans in the Senate,” he says. “His first responsibility there is to increase his numbers, hold the seats he’s got and expand them.”

McConnell has so far declined to endorse Bunning’s re-election bid.

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Local News

Third Republican Enters Senate Race

A third Republican has entered the race for U.S. Senator Jim Bunning’s seat.

Todd County businessman Bill Johnson joins Bunning and retired engineer Roger Thoney as declared candidates in the 2010 GOP primary.

Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Bowling Green optometrist Rand Paul have both formed exploratory committees for a possible race, but they say they won’t run unless Bunning drops out.

“I certainly invite them to join,” Johnson says. “They have their exploratory committees and they’re out raising funds but I would like to see them get in the race. Let’s see where they stand on the issues, let’s talk about the issues and let’s see who’s best able to represent the needs of Kentucky.”

Johnson says he understands their reluctance to face the two-term senator, but he decided last month not to wait for other opponents to enter the race.

“And I also thought the Senate seat was an important seat. It was one we have to keep as Republicans. I respect Senator Bunning a lot, but I think it is time for new leadership.”

Johnson says he needs to raise about $200 thousand by the end of the year to compete.

“I’m going to run a very fiscally conservative campaign,” he says. “What I have always thought to be very interesting is that many candidates will talk about fiscal conservatism, yet they will spend enormous sums of money trying to reach the office.”

State Senate President David Williams has also expressed interest in the primary.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jack Conway, Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo and former customs agent Darlene Fitzgerald Price are all in the race.

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Local News

Bunning Remains In Race, Williams Considering Bid

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky Senate President David Williams is still showing interest in the U-S Senate seat currently held by Senator Jim Bunning. Williams told reporters at the GOP Lincoln Dinner in Louisville Saturday night, if Bunning stays in the race and continues to have trouble raising funds, then “Someone will have to take him on.”

“I don’t see any of the other people talking about running that have enough guts to take him on,” he says. “I’ve never been short on guts. Sometimes I’ve made the wrong decision, but you know I’d take him on if I felt like it was necessary for Republicans to hold the seat in the United States Senate.”

Despite difficulties raising money, and the lack of an endorsement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Bunning is pressing on. He told the GOP faithful at the dinner he’s running for a third term because his core conservative values are under attack by Democrats in Washington.

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Blog Archive

Everyone Is Watching Bunning

When it comes to Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, everyone’s a critic. With the formation of Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson’s exploratory committee, national media has started a “Bunning Campaign Death Watch” of sorts: outlets everywhere have cranked up the speculation on when Bunning will drop out of the race, even though the Senator says he has no plans to retire. Now, the snarky political blog Wonkette has weighed in. The editors are no fan of Ron Paul, and the story focuses on the possible candidacy of the Texas Congressman and former Republican Presidential Candidate’s son, Bowling Green eye doctor Rand Paul.

“…Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning will make a fool of himself daily in the process of losing his Senate seat. And now the hilarity might start even sooner, because Ron Paul’s child, Rand (”The Son”), might primary Bunning. Rand Paul has the exact same views as his father, so it should take about two minutes of money supply babble before Bunning gets uncomfy…”

You can read it all (warning, explicit language) here.

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Blog Archive

538 Looks At The KY Senate Race

Stats wizard Nate Silver at 538.com has weighed in on Senator Jim Bunning’s chances for re-election now that Secretary of State Trey Grayson has formed an exploratory committee. From Silver:

Kentucky, while being a somewhat conservative state, is also still a rather Democratic state, at least in terms of is voters’ declared party preferences. Gallup gives Democrats a 13-point party identification advantage in Kentucky (counting “leaners”), which places it roughly in the middle of the pack nationally. No, Kentucky is not going to vote for certain types of Democrats — particularly liberal, northern Democrats named “Barack Obama” who gave the state the cold shoulder. But it elects plenty of moderate-to-conservative Democrats to statewide and national offices, like its Governor Steve Beshear, as well as [Lt. Governor] Mongiardo, [Attorney General] Conway and [Congressman] Chandler. Democrats also have a 65-35 advantage in the Kentucky State House, although Republicans control the State Senate.

Do you think Silver’s analysis holds up? Will Conway or Mongiardo’s party affiliation help them beat Grayson if Bunning drops out, or does Grayson appeal to the so-called leaners? Do you vote along party lines for state and local elections?

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In-Depth News Local News WFPL News Department Podcast

Others Prepare To Run In Bunning's Stead

After Bruce Lunsford’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell last November, Kentucky Democrats began focusing on how they could win the commonwealth’s other Senate seat, held by the GOP’s Jim Bunning.

Bunning narrowly defeated Dan Mongiardo in 2004, and he’s up for re-election next year. And this time around, questions about Bunning’s political future are being raised within his own party.

Jim Bunning says he will seek a third term next year.

“I’m going to run,” he says.

Bunning conducted a poll in February to gauge support for his re-election bid…but the sometimes irascible 77 year old senator declined recently to disclose the results.

“Let’s say that I did the polling,” said Bunning.
“What does that mean?
“That means it’s none of your G**damn business.”

Those comments are from conference calls with reporters in February and March. Bunning later apologized for the profanity.

Speculation over Bunning’s political future intensified at the beginning of the year, when he reported having relatively little campaign cash on hand. He said that’s because he delayed fundraising to help GOP candidates in the 2008 elections.

Meanwhile, Senator Mitch McConnell told the National Press Club in January he wasn’t sure if his Kentucky counterpart would seek a third term, prompting this response from Bunning in another conference call.

“He had a lapse of memory or something when he was speaking to the press club when he said that he didn’t know my intentions were,” said Bunning. “He knew very well what my intentions were.”

“When they treat Bunning’s candidacy as a possibility and he’s treating it as a reality, then it’s clear they don’t want him to run,” says longtime political writer and the head of the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky Al Cross.”I think that they have looked at his propensity to commit gaffes, his narrow re-election last time, in a year when George Bush was carrying this state by 15 points and his lack of fundraising up to this point, and probably some poll numbers, and concluding that he is going to have a hard time holding the seat for the Republican party which desperately needs every seat it can get in the U.S. Senate.”

Two Republicans say they’re ready to jump into the race only if Bunning decides to retire. One of them is Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

“Jim Bunning is a friend and a mentor,” says Grayson. “He is running for re-election and as long as he’s running for re-election, I don’t have any plans to run against him in a primary.”

And then there’s Bowling Green doctor Rand Paul, who is the son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul.

“My goal is to tell everyone within earshot I will run if Senator Bunning won’t and that I want to represent the conservative wing of the party,” says Paul.

Paul and Grayson both say they’re close to Bunning politically, especially when it comes to economic policy–which they call a key to victory in 2010. Neither has officially begun raising money or campaigning, but Paul says he’ll use the same grassroots efforts that powered his father’s presidential bid, while Grayson says he can rely on his reputation as a Republican up-and-comer.

“Frankly, everywhere I go people ask me what I’m going to run for next,” says Grayson. “They encourage me to run for other offices because the know I’m term-limited as Secretary of State for 2011.”

“Well the person who’s not going to wait on Bunning is David Williams,” says Al Cross. He’s talking about Kentucky Senate President David Williams, who has expressed interest in the seat.

“I expect Williams will be in the race next month, after Bunning reports a poor fundraising performance in the first quarter,” says Cross.

Williams hasn’t officially declared his candidacy, and calls to his office on the matter weren’t returned. Williams met last month with officials from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, prompting Bunning to say he would sue the NRSC if it recruited an opponent to run against him. The committee’s chairman, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, says it supports Bunning. Cornyn told the Courier-Journal the meeting with Williams was just a courtesy visit.

As Kentucky Democrats watch it all unfold, they’re positioning for their own primary. Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo has formally announced he’ll run again. Attorney General Jack Conway has said he’s considering the race, as is Congressman Ben Chandler.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Local Group Wants Senators to Act on Darfur before Olympics

In the run up to the Olympics, local activists are asking U.S. Senators to urge China to help alleviate the conflict in Darfur, Sudan. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

The Kentuckiana Interfaith Taskforce on Darfur has joined more than 30 human rights organizations calling on Senators John McCain and Barack Obama to co-sponsor a Senate resolution. It asks China to advance diplomatic actions to help cease hostilities in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The resolution calls for an Olympic truce, the idea of suspending fighting during the Olympic Games.

The group also is asking Kentucky’s senators to support the resolution, says taskforce chair Bob Brousseau.

“We’ve held meetings with Senators Bunning and McConnell’s offices and it’s been very cordial and receptive,” Brousseau says. “However, we would like them to exert their influence amongst other senators, especially Senator McConnell.”

China is the primary purchaser of oil from Sudan and sells arms to the African country.

The United Nations reports that 300,000 people have died in Darfur and more than 2.2 million have been displaced since 2003.

Brousseau says that recently violence and suffering have escalated in Darfur.

“Darfur is becoming increasingly inhospitable to people,” he says. “Doctors Without Borders has pulled out. It is the worst place on earth right now in terms of human conditions.”

Last month, the International Criminal Court filed genocide charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir connected to the violence in Darfur.