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Chandler, Luallen endorse Conway over Mongiardo




LOUISVILLE

Two big-name Democrats have decided not to run in next year’s U.S. Senate race, announcing this week that they will instead endorse Jack Conway for the job.

U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler and state Auditor Crit Luallen had been considering the race, but decided instead to get behind Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general.

“The fact that we have a candidate of the caliber of Jack Conway, in my view, is enough for me to take a pass on this race,” Chandler said Monday.

Conway announced last week that he will run for the seat now held by two-term Republican Jim Bunning. He has a growing number of political endorsements, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, all of whom took part in a campaign kickoff at the Muhammad Ali Center on Monday.

Conway was the second major Democrat to enter the race. Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo announced in February that he would run. Endorsed by Gov. Steve Beshear, Mongiardo has already raised more than $420,000 for his campaign.

Mongiardo spokesman Kim Geveden said he was not overly impressed with Conway’s political support.

“Frankly, with respect to everything else, Daniel isn’t concerned about what politicians are endorsing Jack,” Geveden said, “because he believes the most valuable endorsement is of regular Kentuckians.”

Mongiardo came close to unseating Bunning in 2004, but ended up losing to the 77-year-old baseball Hall of Famer, 51 percent to 49 percent. Some 27,000 votes separated the two.

That close call with Mongiardo, who was a little-known state senator from Hazard at the time, is the main reason Bunning is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent senators facing reelection next year.

Bunning has had more recent difficulties, issuing two apologies for objectionable comments, including for his remarks that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could die of pancreatic cancer within a year.

With lackluster campaign fundraising thus far, Bunning could also face opposition in the Republican primary. State Senate President David Williams has been pondering a run and two other Republicans, Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Bowling Green eye surgeon Rand Paul, have said they would be interested if Bunning were to drop out.

Bunning’s bare-bones campaign finance reports have fueled speculation that he may not be approaching the race seriously. His last report listed $27,357 in financial contributions — short of the $10 million he’s said it would take to win re-election.

Bunning faced a Wednesday (today) deadline for filing a report detailing contributions for the first quarter of this year. He said recently that his fundraising has been “lousy” so far, contending that GOP leaders had been working against him in an effort to force him to retire.


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