Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Bunning Regrets Endorsing Paul

Calling it the lesser of two evils, former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning surprised political observers when he said he regreted endorsing Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in the 2010 Senate race.

The surly baseball Hall of Famer recently gave a nod to state Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington to succeed retiring Congressman Geoff Davis, but indicated he’s been more tepid since backing Paul two years ago.

From Cincinnati Inquirer (h/t FatLip):

“I endorsed in the U.S. Senate race,” Bunning said. “I took the lesser of two evils there. One person didn’t tell me the truth, and the other person I wasn’t sure what he would do when he got there. He’s disappointed me since he’s got there.”


One can assume that the days of Bunning being Paul’s role model have ended.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Davis, Bunning Endorse Webb-Edgington for Congress

Congressman Geoff Davis and former U.S. Senator Jim Bunning announced they are backing Republican congressional candidate Alecia Webb-Edgington in the crowded primary race for Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District seat.

The two endorsements are a needed boost for Webb-Edgington’s campaign, which trails third in fundraising behind Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore and Lewis County Judge-Executive Thomas Massie.

Bunning held the congressional seat for 12 years before being elected to the Senate, and Davis currently holds the office, but announced his retirement late last year.

“Jim Bunning and Geoff Davis have set the gold standard for principled conservative leadership in Congress and effective constituent services,” says Webb-Edgington. “I am truly honored to have their support and will seek to follow their example if I’m elected.”

Local News Politics

Bunning Delivers Farewell Address To Senate

Outgoing U.S. Senator Jim Bunning blasted several recently-passed laws Thursday as he gave his farewell address to his colleagues.

Bunning criticized the healthcare overhaul law. He said he believes it’s unconstitutional. He then said the recently-passed financial overhaul package is insufficient.

“There were and are real problems in our financial system, but that bill is not going to fix them, and almost certainly sows the seeds for the next banking and financial crisis,” he says.

Bunning said the law does not do enough to shrink large banks and punish them for reckless policies. Bunning did not seek a third term last year and will be replaced by fellow Republican Rand Paul next year.

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Kentucky GOP Senate Race Draws Attention

By Tony McVeigh, Kentucky Public Radio

It’s rare for Kentucky politics to draw international attentlon, but the BBC is among news outlets covering the state’s U.S. Senate race.

Last July, after struggling to raise money, U.S. Senator Jim Bunning ended speculation over his bid for a third term by withdrawing from the campaign. His departure immediately thrust Secretary of State Trey Grayson into the spotlight, as the candidate to beat in the Republican primary. But a surprising surge by Bowling Green physician Rand Paul steered the political neophyte to the top of the polls, where he remains. Paul who wants to shrink government has tapped into the growing tea party movement.

“Big things are happening,” said Paul. “I mean, there’s a movement going on across the country and I’m part of it.”

Forty-seven year old Paul is the son of longtime Texas congressman Ron Paul, who ran a failed 2008 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. By capitalizing on his father’s political base, the younger Paul has raised almost $3 million. But so has Trey Grayson, and the secretary of state says most of his money comes from Kentuckians, not outsiders. And Grayson says Paul has no exclusive claim to tea party support.

“There’s nobody who has any kind of ownership over the tea party,” said Grayson. “I have a lot of supporters who are involved in the movement.”

But Rand Paul’s surge has put 38-year old Grayson on the defensive, and in the uncomfortable position of running negative ads. It’s a first for the amiable, fifth generation Kentuckian, who’s already won two statewide races. And the well-financed Paul is firing back.

The two are also waging war over who has the best endorsements. Sarah Palin, Steve Forbes and Senator Bunning are lining up behind Paul. Grayson’s backers include Dick Cheney, congressman Hal Rogers and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. What effect, if any, the endorsements will have on the race remains to be seen. But on the campaign trail, it’s clear both men have devoted followers.

“I take it that you’re a Rand Paul supporter?” asked McVeigh.

“I am.”

“What is it about him that you like?” asked McVeigh.

“I like the fact that I think I can relate to him when I hear him speak and when I look at him. I don’t think he has a pretentious attitude about him.”

That’s Jason LeChance, who was paying close attention to his favorite candidate at a small gathering in Lexington. A few days later, Doug Hendrickson was doing the same when Trey Grayson dropped by a popular, local deli in Maysville.

“I feel very sure that Trey Grayson would work towards getting some things done and getting us back on track, instead of just annihilation with everything, and blocking everything,” said Hendrickson.

Keeping an objective eye on the race is University of Kentucky political science professor Donald Gross. Would a Rand Paul victory signal a future for the tea party movement in American politics?

“Part of the longevity of a movement ultimately is going to be is some type of leadership,” says Gross. “And yet, one of the very parts of the tea party movement is that it doesn’t really seem to have a leadership that’s likely to be there for a long time.”

Rand Paul is already signaling a desire to be that leader, and is preparing a platform around which the tea party can coalesce. But right now, he just wants to beat Trey Grayson, whom he believes has peaked.

“I think his peak was in July of 2009,” said Paul. “Seriously. I think he peaked in July of 2009.”

“We’re gonna peak May 18th,” said Grayson. “What Rand doesn’t understand is that you don’t peak any day until May 18th.”

We’ll find out who’s right on Tuesday.

Local News

Primary Senate Race Fires Up Democrats

By Elizabeth Kramer

This year’s open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Senator Jim Bunning has Kentucky Democrats brimming with hope that this could be their year to have one of their own on that side of that ruling body for the first time in more than a decade. With the primary election only five days away, the battle is heating up between Democrats Jack Conway and Daniel Mongiardo.

And this Senate race in particular had Jefferson County Democrats whooping and hollering last Friday at a party dinner as Congressman John Yarmuth introduced the last Democrat from Kentucky to hold a U.S. Senate seat.

“The great Senator Wendell Ford,” Yamouth’s voice bellows through the cavernous room.

After serving as Kentucky Governor, Ford was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974 and held that seat for 24 years. Now, at 85 years old, he’s itching for his party to win his old seat back.

“It’s been 4,148 days since I left the Senate,” Ford says, “And it’s time to get that seat back with one of these two candidates.”

Those two candidates are Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo. And what gives Democrats hope is how six years ago then-State Senator Mongiardo came within 2 percentage points from defeating Republican Senator Jim Bunning.

Then a major issue was the Iraq war and Mongiardo campaigned on that and health care. This time around, he’s talking about the state’s financial health and taking his talking points to voters throughout the rural and urban rural areas, as he did recently in Louisville.

“If we got government back to bottom-up management,” Mongiardo says, “we’ll solve the problems that are facing our families today — the loss of jobs, the loss of homes, losing heath insurance and all these issues — because we’ll know them as soon as they’re happening, not by some statistic months later.”

This time around Mongiardo is not the heir apparent. His main opponent, Jack Conway, has raised more than two and half million dollars compared to Mongiardo’s nearly $2 million.

But as Conway works the same room of Democrats this evening, he sings a tune akin to his rival’s.

“Jobs and accountability and fiscal responsibility,” Conway states in a matter-of-fact manner.

But Conway’s added a twist to that song to help him close in on Mongiardo’s advantage in some of the polls to date, which Margiaro has sometimes led by double digits. In Conway’s chorus, he highlights his accomplishments in his current job.

“I’ve got to point to my positive record of accomplishment, Conway says, “of saving ratepayers over $100 million and the fact that we created a cybercrimes unit as Attorney General that’s taken 68,000 child porn images off of the Internet.”

With similar messages, the fierce competition between the two has been most apparent in campaign attack ads. For instance, Conway has criticized Mongiardo for his use of public money while travelling on state business. And Mongiardo has taken Conway to task for accepting money from people tied to Wall Street.

But some observers say it’s not the ads that will make the difference on Tuesday, but name recognition, grassroots campaigning and links to the political establishment — especially with anti-incumbent sentiment running high. One is Al Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky.

“With Mongiardo, the labor support he has will probably be significant in terms of turning out vote on Election Day,” Cross says. “With Conway, it’s hard to say. He’s supported by some major figures in the party, but it sort of reemphasizes that Conway’s the establishment candidate.”

And as Cross sees it, it won’t be the votes from the strictly rural or urban areas that make the winner. He says he thinks the race will be decided by voters in small cities like Elizabethtown, Campbellsville, Danville, Richmond and Mount Sterling.

And whatever voters decide, the Democrats are ready to back their candidate to the hilt. Former Senator Wendell Ford is already thinking about the party’s focus next Wednesday morning, the day after voters have made their choices in the primary.

“We’ll eat our scrambled eggs and bacon, eat those biscuits,” he tells the crowd, “and turn ourselves ready for the war in November.”

Local News

New Faces At Fancy Farm

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson is in western Kentucky today for the 129th Fancy Farm Picnic. Now that he’s Gov. Steve Beshear’s running mate for 2011, this is one of the mayor’s first chances to make an impression on voters outside of the Louisville area. Abramson was relaxed, smiling and shaking hands last night at the Democrats’ annual Bean Supper at Kentucky Lake.

“Reconnecting with a lot of folks that I’ve known as county judges, mayors and magistrates, and sheriffs and jailers that I have just interacted with over the years,” he said. “Listening a lot, in terms of the issues that they’re dealing with, the difficulties that are happening here in the economy. And also sort of getting a feel for the Fancy Farm experience, once again.”

This is Abramson’s second trip to Fancy Farm. In the mid-1990’s, he attended as an observer. Today, he’ll be sitting onstage, but won’t be delivering a speech. Gov. Beshear won’t be there at all. He’s vacationing with his family in Florida.

Last night at the Calvert City Civic Center in far western Kentucky, Republicans gathered for pre-picnic festivities. Among those pressing the flesh was Todd County Navy veteran and businessman Bill Johnson, who wants to be Kentucky’s next U-S Senator.

“I’ve never run for office. I’ve never served in public office. But I’m a ten-year military veteran,” said Todd. “I’ve been in business for 13 years. I’ve traveled to 18 countries, cutting waste and creating jobs. And I think it’s time for concerned citizens to go to Washington and clean-up the mess.”

Johnson, who’s seeking the seat currently held by U-S Senator Jim Bunning, will speak today at Fancy Farm. His military training should come in handy, because as experienced reporters will tell you, hecklers can be especially rough on political novices brave enough to take the stage at the annual event.

Local News

Bunning Insists He Will Seek Third Term

Senator BunningIn a speech to the Rotary Club of Louisville Thursday, U.S. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky said he will not be deterred in his bid for re-election.

No other high-profile Republicans have entered the Senate race, but last week, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway filed to run in the primary against Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo, who has raised $429,000 since entering the race in February.

Bunning reported this week that he raised just over $262,000 during the first three months of the year.  His relatively low campaign account has raised questions about whether he will continue to seek re-election, but Bunning says he’s in for the duration.

“I’m running for a third term,” he says. “I haven’t convinced everybody in Kentucky of that yet. But I’m trying.”

Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson has said he will run for Bunning’s seat if the senator drops out, as has Bowling Green activist Rand Paul. State Senate President David Williams has also expressed interest in entering the primary.

Local News

Kentucky's Bunning Opposes Fannie/Freddie Rescue Plan

As Congress works out details this week on a proposed credit plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Kentucky’s junior senator says he’s wholly opposed to the idea. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been pushing the legislation, which is expected to come to a vote this week. The proposal would allow the government to extend credit to the two largest mortgage finance companies in the country.

Republican Jim Bunning says although Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were created by the government, the government shouldn’t try to help as the housing market declines.

“I was always taught this was a free market economy in the United States, not one that was controlled by the government. The government shouldn’t insure free market risk, and that’s what we’re talking about,” says Bunning.

Paulson’s proposal calls for the government to extend credit to both companies for up to 18 months. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it could cost up to 25-billion dollars.

The two companies guarantee almost half of the outstanding home loans in the country.