A labor leader and a city official from Paducah agree with other Kentucky Democrats who want Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo and Atty. General Jack Conway to stop bashing each other and start going after the Republicans.
Mongiardo and Conway are favorites to win next May’s Democratic primary for the U.S. senate.
“All they are doing is loading the guns for the other side,” said Jeff Wiggins, a Steelworker and president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, an association of western Kentucky union locals.
“History has proven many times that this kind of campaigning backfires,” said City Commissioner Gerald Watkins. “When two candidates from one party attack each other in a primary, it gives the other party ammunition to shoot back at the winner when it comes time for the general election.”
Mongiardo and Conway grabbed headlines by hammering each other more than they gouged the GOP at the famous Fancy Farm political picnic. The Democratic duo “abandoned any pretence of civility,” Joseph Gerth wrote in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Gerth pointed out that the Republican frontrunners, Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Dr. Rand Paul, “trained most of their fire on the Democrats.”
Watkins, also a political science professor at Paducah’s West Kentucky Community and Technical College, says Mongiardo and Conway need to “focus their fire” on the Republicans.
“Mongiardo and Conway are the rising stars of the Democratic Party,” said Watkins, a local Democratic Party activist, too. “Both of them are bright, intelligent and attractive candidates.”
“Bright, intelligent and attractive” is not how they described each other at the annual late summer picnic, where politics is often as spicy as the barbecue. Mongiardo slammed Conway as an elitist. To drive home the point, Mongiardo supporters passed out silver-colored, plastic spoons, implying Conway was to the manor born.
Watkins worries the Republicans will recycle Mongiardo’s attack line – maybe even the spoons – against Conway if he wins. “You can bet the Republicans will use some of the bad things Mongiardo and Conway are saying about each other. I can just see the campaign commercials -- ‘We didn’t say that about Jack Conway or Dan Mongiardo, Dan Mongiardo or Jack Conway did.’”
Mongiardo and Conway will likely need each other’s support in future elections, Watkins added. “One of them is going to lose this time – both Mongiardo and Conway think it will be the other guy.
“But no matter which one wins, the other one will still be around. He’ll run other races. So it is in their self-interest to stop attacking each other.”
Mongiardo and Conway had expected to face incumbent Sen. Jim Bunning. He had resisted pressure to bow out and had vowed to seek another term despite his age – 77 -- and penchant for controversial commentary.
He barely beat Mongiardo in 2004. Bunning raised eyebrows – and hackles – when he claimed Mongiardo – then a state senator – was “limp wristed” and looked “like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons.”
Watkins said when Bunning bowed out, “the Republicans’ chances of holding that seat soared.
“Bunning was considered to be the most vulnerable incumbent senator up for re-election in the entire country next year. Grayson, who is probably the favorite to win the Republican primary, will be hard to beat.
“But Paul would be tough, too. Kentucky is still a red state. The Democrats have got to be united.”
Wiggins, who also is on the state AFL-CIO Executive Board, agreed with the professor. “I’m perturbed about what Mongiardo and Conway are saying about each other. I wish somebody who had influence with them would tell them to cease and desist.”