Lt. Governor Mongiardo didn't seem to mind being interviewed in a busy bookstore.
“So, how’s your new baby?” A simple softball question, it was pooh poohed by my husband (pun intended). Hearing my recitation of candidate questions as he drove to Paducah to meet Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo, the futurist/policy wonk had better ideas of what was appropriate to ask. He made suggestions. I made some notes.
We met Dr. Dan Mongiardo at the Books a Million, where I had envisioned getting a table and a cup of coffee. The store was crowded with not a seat to spare. I wound up interviewing a candidate for the US Senate in the paperback romance aisle.
Naturally, the first question out of my mouth was “So, how’s the new baby?”
Mongiardo’s face glowed. The baby, Katherine (Catherine?) just turned two months old yesterday. She’s sleeping through the night – sort of.
He enthused “I never knew what it would be like. People try to tell you. I was forty nine when I had my first child. Now I can’t wait for the second.” (No, I didn’t ask if there was a second on the way.)
Dr. Dan said that he knew about child growth and development and how a child’s brain grows rapidly in the first years of life. Now, he’s seeing his daughter change day by day. And his enthusiasm for early childhood education has increased several folds. He wants Kentucky to be a leader in preschool education. He wants to see parent education programs.
“I was handed my daughter in the hospital and told, ‘See you when your next one comes along.’ I was looking around for the owner’s manual.” He joked.
I told him a kindergarten teacher said recently that she feared losing her teacher’s aide.
Mongiardo nodded solemnly and said “I think that is a real concern. We are in the most desperate times of our lifetime.” He believes that Governor Beshear has done a great job protecting the SEEK program (the state’s funding program for schools), but “if we don’t fix the budget in Frankfort, we’ll see layoffs in education, which will be a disaster for our economy.” The progress Mongiardo has seen in the schools will melt away and there will be little or no money for the new programs he envisions for Kentucky’s children.
He said the economy is one of the reasons he is running. “We have to create Kentucky specific jobs. That’s higher paying jobs so that we have more revenue to the state so we have more money to put in education.’
There are several areas where Kentucky specific jobs can be created. Number one is energy. “We have to get real about energy. You’ve heard every politician say that, but here’s how we do it. Wind. Solar. Nuclear, yes. Conservation, yes. We also need to be using our oil and our natural gas and yes, our coal.”
He believes that coal is “too valuable to burn for electricity.” He strongly advocates coal liquefaction. It’s much cleaner burning and much less and pointed to demonstration projects – three projects in West Kentucky, one in Muhlenberg County, one near Owensboro and one in Paducah. The McCracken County project is a fifteen year planned project, 25 billion dollar investment which will create the high paying jobs he envisions.
When asked about Kentucky Utilities’ recent rate filing for a 13% increase in consumer rates, he said. “Coal prices are down. There is no fundamental reason why electric prices should be going up right now. “
Mongiardo also wanted to talk about cap and trade, which he passionately opposes, and his primary opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway endorses. He predicts that cap and trade will increase energy prices in the Commonwealth by over 300% because 90% of Kentucky’s electricity comes to coal.
Dr. Mongiardo brought up Clinton’s water company which he remembered is partially owned by AIG.
“Why are they increasing rates? What’s the rationale? Here you have AIG which would have been in obituary column if it wasn’t for your and my tax dollars bailing them out. And now they’re back to business as usual making money hand over fist. Their executives are getting bonuses. The lawyers and lobbyists are doing a great job for Wall Street. That’s why people are angry.”
I asked about getting along with the Minority Leader, Kentucky’s own Senator Mitch McConnell. Mongiardo said he had discussions in the past with McConnell and didn’t foresee problems. He had worked with Senate President Williams and stood up to him and to his own party. He recalled that he first ran for the Kentucky Senate because a member of his own party “wasn’t getting it done.”
As he left, Lieutenant Governor Mongiardo said again how comfortable he feels in West Kentucky. “I feel like I’m at home.”
Even in the romance section of a busy bookstore.