KY-Sen: Conway Supports Health Reform, Mongiardo Does Not

Bumped. -N

Every single Senate Democrat supports America's health insurance reform. This will no longer be the case if Dan Mongiardo, rather than Jack Conway, wins Kentucky's open Senate seat.

In the Democratic primary to replace retiring Republican Jim Bunning, Kentuky state Attorney General Jack Conway supports the historic legislation signed into law today while Lt. Gov. Mongiardo does not. In a press release, Conway criticized the bill's industry sweetners but expressed support for the larger package:

Last night, Congress passed historic health care reform. This momentous legislation will stop insurance company abuses, lower costs for businesses and individuals, and provide affordable coverage for up to 654,000 Kentuckians who are uninsured. The Senate will vote on the bill soon, and if I had the honor of being Senator, I would vote for it.

This bill is not perfect. It does not give Medicare bulk purchasing power for prescription drugs, which could save taxpayers $200 billion dollars. Unfortunately, Washington struck a deal with the big pharmaceutical companies that took this issue off the table. 

If I am elected Senator, the first piece of legislation I introduce will repeal this special interest giveaway. To truly reform the health care system, we need to cut health care costs, while maintaining benefits and this $200 billion dollars in savings needs to be part of the solution.

Kentucky voters deserve to know where their candidates stand on the issues. I support this bill while my opponent has said he would 'throw it all out and start over.' According to CNHI, my opponent's position is 'basically the same line used by Sen. Mitch McConnell.'

There is a clear choice in this race. I support health care coverage for all Kentuckians while my opponent, Daniel Mongiardo, agrees with Mitch McConnell and Republicans who want to revert to the broken health care system of our past.

If you were mad at Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson for their work on the bill, then wait'll you get a hold of Dan Mongiardo.

Unfortunately, Mongiardo is running well ahead of Conway, who needs our help. Taking Jim Bunning's seat will help blunt Democratic losses elsewhere and move us toward a more progressive caucus. I've started an Act Blue page for open seats we can win; click here to donate to the first candidate there, Jack Conway's Senate campaign.

Democrats Air First Ads In KY-Sen

Both Democrats running in Kentucky's Senate primary aired their first ads this week. Here's Attorney General Jack Conway's:

The other Democrat in the race, Lt. Gov. Mongiardo, is also up with his first ad. He gets away from the white background look but focuses even more on the outgoing Bunning rather than the current GOP opponents. Worse yet, both candidates have purchased only limited airtime while the Republicans, Rand Paul and Trey Grayson, are blanketing the state. One piece of good news, however, is that both Democrats attack Jim Bunning and the Repubs, whereas the Repubs attack each other.

This race matters, and Conway is the right candidate. We’re going to lose some incumbent Democrats this November. It’s hard to tell exactly who and quite how many this early, but some are goners for sure. The best way to offset those losses is to flip some open Republican seats. New Hampshire and Missouri may be our best bets, but let’s not rule out Kentucky.  

Democrats don’t get the pleasure of running against Bunning, but an open seat in a state with a Democratic Governor and a bitter GOP primary is nothing to sneeze at, either. All hypothetical General Election match-ups (some of which are out of date) have the Repubs ahead, but with one Rasmussen exception for Mongiardo-Paul, always below 50%.

From mountaintop removal mining to gay rights, Conway has definitely shown himself to be the progressive in this race. He'll make a better candidate, too, as he doesn’t carry Mongiardo’s baggage. They may be evenly matched against Repubs now but Mongiardo was unable to beat Bunning in 2004, and his own profane comments about the seat and Gov. Beshear could come back to haunt him in the general.

It seems to me that Jack Conway, who only slightly led Mongiardo in the last poll (December), is a candidate just waiting for Netroots support. The primary is May 18.

Help Robert Byrd Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining

Today is all about health care, as well it should be - but I want to take a minute to look not at how we can cure sick people, but at one way we can help prevent them from getting sick in the first place. According to the NRDC, "Coal-burning power plants are the largest U.S. source of carbon dioxide pollution -- they produce 2.5 billion tons every year. Automobiles, the second largest source, create nearly 1.5 billion tons of CO2 annually."

From the Clean Water Act violations caused by mountaintop removal mining to the hurricanes and droughts that global warming will cause to the thousands of lives shortened every year by coal-fired power plants and mines, there's no two ways around it: coal kills. And yet because of the thousands of jobs coal provides in West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming, coal is also king. Legalized prostitution and drug markets would also create thousands of jobs, and yet they stay banned, as well they should. Job creation is not a valid excuse for destroying the lives of children and the future of the planet - something coal state politicians seem to have forgotten.

Until now. Politico had this jaw-dropping story yesterday:

In an early December op-ed piece released by his office -- also recorded on audio by the frail 92-year-old senator -- [Senator Robert] Byrd argued that resistance to constraints on mountaintop-removal coal mining and a failure to acknowledge that "the truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy" represent the real threat to the future of coal.

"Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry," Byrd said in the 1,161-word statement. "West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear: The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose."

In almost any other state, Byrd's remarks might not have caused such a stir. But in West Virginia, where the coal industry -- even in its currently diminished form -- accounts for 30,000 jobs and more than $3.5 billion in gross annual product and provides roughly half of all American coal exports, according to the state coal association, his statement reverberated across the political landscape.

Earlier this month, I suggested donating to the Senate campaign of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway as a way to help stop mountaintop removal mining, given that his primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, is an unabashed supporter of the method that creates floods and destroys drinking water. I've made my (small) contribution; have you?

Here's another, easier way you can help stop mountaintop removal mining. A new Sierra Club action alert says that the Interior Department is poised to reverse some Bush-era coal regulations but is facing pressure from the coal industry and asks readers to send the Department a public comment urging them to proceed with strengthening the rules. Please take the ten seconds to forward the Sierra Club's comments to the Department, or to write your own.

The Department of Interior and its Office of Surface Mining have publicly stated that they intend to revise the "Stream Buffer Zone Rule," a decades-old prohibition on surface mining activities within 100 feet of flowing streams, which was gutted by the Bush Administration.

But Big Coal is already pressuring the Obama Administration to keep the destructive Bush policies in place. We need your help to flood the Department of Interior with messages supporting the restoration of these necessary safeguards.

Interior Secretary Salazar needs to hear from you before the December 30th deadline for public comments.

Communities throughout the Appalachian region suffer daily from contaminated drinking water, increased flooding, and a decimated landscape resulting from the damage and destruction wreaked on thousands of miles of streams by mountaintop-removal coal mining.  Reinstating and enforcing the 100 foot prohibition in the Stream Buffer Zone rule will rein in the reckless mining that has ravaged Appalachia.

There's more...

Friends Don't Let Friends Blow Away Mountaintops

The Hotline's Reid Wilson had a very interesting article earlier this week about the Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky. It boils down to this: one candidate supports mountaintop removal mining, the other doesn't. Attorney General Jack Conway values the environment and the health of his potential constituents; Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo does not.

We've heard from several KY Dem strategists who say the issue could be a factor in the primary; the coal industry plays an outsized role in KY, even though it accounts for less than 1% of the jobs in the state. But it's an issue that pits Mongiardo's base of rural Dems squarely against Conway's urban Dems.

If mountaintop mining plays a major, or decisive, role in the primary, it could signal which Dem faction is dominant in state politics.

Polls have showed both candidates leading, and national Dems who once favored Conway have modified their language toward Mongiardo. They claim to be happy with either candidate. Still, the eventual winner is unlikely to emerge from the race unscathed; political watchers are hard-pressed to remember a primary that has turned this negative this quickly.

I haven't paid much attention to this race. Given his performance against Bunning in 2004, I probably would have been inclined to support Mongiardo. But this does it for me: I'll be donating to Conway's campaign. Why do I care so much about mountaintop removal mining? A very simple summary from Earth Justice gets right to it:

Mountaintop removal coal mining, often described as "strip mining on steroids," is an extremely destructive form of mining that is devastating Appalachia. In the past few decades, over 2,000 miles of streams and headwaters that provide drinking water for millions of Americans have been permanently buried and destroyed. An area the size of Delaware has been flattened. Local coal field communities routinely face devastating floods and adverse health effects. Natural habitats in some our country's oldest forests are laid to waste.

Earth Justice provides a number of ways to help them fight mountaintop removal mining - signing petitions, sending comments to the EPA, writing to the President, etc. Here's a new one: Support Jack Conway for U.S. Senate. Conway isn't exactly a supporter of cap-and-trade, but that may be a non-issue by January 2011. Right now, I'm more concerned with Mongiardo's enthusiastic backing of 0.9% of his state's jobs rather than 100% of the nation's health and environment.

Way back in April, which is admittedly quite dated, Conway did better in head-to-head general election matchups than Mongiardo. On a related note, earlier this week Jerome noted that Mongiardo somewhat backs Obama's troop surge and Conway is mostly opposed. As he said, "It's pretty clear whom is the progressive in the primary."

There's more...

US Senate Democratic candidates lining up against Afghanistan surge

I blogged about this earlier in the week, and sure enough, its becoming the trend. In Kentucky, Jack Conway, who is the AG running for the open Senate seat, has come out saying he "expresses reservations about President Obama's plan for troop surge" and that Obama has not adequately expressed a rationale for sending more troops.

Conway's position is in opposition to KY LG Dan Mongiardo, who stated yesterday that he was "inclined to support a troop surge in Afghanistan." Combine that with the contrast over mountaintop mountaintop removal for coal, which Conway opposes and Mongiardo supports, and it's pretty clear whom is the progressive in the primary.

So that's Kentucky.

In Ohio, Jennifer Brunner has already come out opposed to the surge of troops. I've not seen anything from her opponent, LG Lee Fisher. [edit., Lee Fisher does have a position, saying that 30,000 additional troops are not required.]

In Massachusetts, Martha Coakley joined Mike Capuano in opposition.

In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter has stated he is opposed, and Joe Sestak is in favor, and its become a central defining issue between the two candidates.

In Illinois, one of the leading candidates, David Hoffman, has put out a statement saying: " I am skeptical that our mission in Afghanistan should be to spend years rebuilding the country with our armed forces at potentially great cost of American life."

These are all open primaries, where the candidates have their ears much closer to the ground of Democratic voters than those in DC  currently do. I expect that we will see plenty of primary opportunities develop against incumbents whom are in Democratic strongholds that go along with support of the surge.

Look, when your allies are Byron York ("Obama keeps his Afghan promise") and Sarah Palin ("I support President Obama's decision"), you're on the wrong side of the issue.

There's more...

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