KY-Sen: Mongiardo's In
Kentucky Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo announced this morning that he will take on Sen. Jim Bunning (R) in 2010 -- seeking a jump on what could be a crowded Democratic field.
"The people of Kentucky deserve a Senator that has the vision, energy and record to help improve our state and country," said Mongiardo this morning. "After the current legislative session, I will launch a vigorous campaign to replace Senator Jim Bunning."
This will be Mongiardo's second try at ousting Bunning who is widely regarded by Republican and Democratic strategists alike as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking reelection next fall.
The rumor mill continues to churn that Bunning, who will be 79 on election day 2010, will retire or be pushed into retirement but his inner circle insists he is running. "I know that Senator Bunning is looking forward to running against the winner of a crowded Democratic primary," said Jon Deuser, a former senior aide to the Kentucky Senator. "In 2010, he's going to do it again."
In 2004, Mongiardo, then a state senator, surged at the end of the campaign as Bunning stumbled; the Democrat ultimately lost 51 percent to 49 percent. Three years later he was elected to his current position as Steve Beshear swept to the governorship.
Mongiardo may be the first serious Democrat in the field but he almost certainly won't be the last. State Attorney General Jack Conway, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002 before being elected as Kentucky's top cop in 2007, is expected to get into the race in the coming weeks.
"Mongiardo's actions in no way impact Jack Conway's decision," said Mark Riddle, a consultant for the attorney general. "Conway is moving forward with his process."
It's not clear whether any other Democrats will decide to run. State Auditor Crit Luallen was wooed by national Democrats to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2008 and is reportedly considering a run in 2010. Rep. Ben Chandler would almost certainly be Democrats' strongest candidate but all reports are that he is happy in the House.
There's no doubt that Bunning is in serious trouble regardless of who Democrats wind up nominating. Given Bunning's age, tough reelection race in 2004 and weak cash position (less than $150,000 on hand at the end of 2008), this may be a rare occurrence where an open seat would give Republicans a better chance of keeping Kentucky in their column.
But, Bunning -- as anyone who knows him is aware -- is his own man and keeps his own counsel. And, until we hear differently, he's running.
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