Two square off in U.S. Senator’s race

-A A +A

Incumbent faces challenge from businessman.

By Calen McKinney

Voters will decide next month who will become Kentucky's U.S. Senator.

Incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell will face off against Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford for the seat in the Nov. 4 General Election.

McConnell's Senate career began in 1984. He has since been reelected four times. In June 2005, he became the longest-serving Republican Senator from Kentucky.

On Nov. 15, 2006, McConnell was unanimously elected Republican Leader in the 110th Congress by his colleagues, making him only the second Senator from Kentucky to lead his party in the U.S. Senate.

Before being elected Republican Leader, McConnell served as the Majority Whip in the 108th and 109th Congresses. He currently serves as a senior member of the Appropriations, Agriculture and Rules Committees.

Lunsford became treasurer of the Kentucky Democratic Party in 1979. In 1980, he was named head of Kentucky's first Commerce Cabinet. He then left state government.

In 1984, along with two partners, he formed Vencare Inc. in Louisville. Five years later, the company was known as Vencor. By 1996, Vencor was a Fortune 500 company, operating 36 hospitals in 16 states. A year later, it employed more than 60,000 and owned or operated more than 360 hospitals and nursing centers. In 1998, Vencor was split into two companies, Vencor and Ventas.

Lunsford is a thoroughbred owner, theme park investor and has recently ventured into the motion picture industry.

Mitch McConnell

In an e-mail, McConnell stated that Kentucky's economic and jobs outlook must improve. 

"I will continue to work to keep taxes low, and to cultivate an environment where small businesses - the backbone of job creation - can flourish and hire more workers," he stated.

"We must also work to make health care more affordable for everyone. Half of the uninsured in this country work in small businesses, so my plan is to allow small businesses to take steps that will put more people on a company health care plan."

McConnell said, if reelected, he will also remain vigilant to secure funding for a new veteran's hospital in Kentucky and to increase funding for medical care for Kentucky's wounded soldiers.

McConnell stated that he believes he is the most qualified candidate for the position because he can do more for Kentucky.

"I have been fortunate to amass an enormous amount of clout and influence in Washington. Only two Kentuckians have ever risen to become leader of their party in the Senate. When you achieve that leadership position, it means your state is in a position to be at the table on every major decision."

He says he believes his conservative values are in line with those of most Kentuckians - pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, for lower taxes and for judges who interpret the Constitution as written instead of legislating from the bench.

McConnell said the next few years will be a difficult period for our economy, though he believes Kentuckians can take steps now to lessen the impact and get the economy back on track.

"I am an optimist, as I think most Kentuckians are," he stated. "If we keep taxes low, if we help foster an environment where small businesses can succeed and hire more workers, if we protect the savings and retirement accounts of regular folks, if we enact critical reforms in the mortgage industry, I think we can pull out of this downturn and emerge stronger on the other side."

For more information on McConnell, visit www.teammitch.com.

Bruce Lunsford

In a telephone interview last week, Lunsford said three important issues Kentuckians will face in the next few years center around the economic meltdown, health care and education.

The economic meltdown could have occurred because of McConnell's and President George Bush's policies, Lunsford said, that include tax cuts for the wealthy.

He said the cost of the Iraq war has also hurt the economy, along with the deregulation of Wall Street.

When selecting the U.S. Senate candidate, Lunsford said, it's important that the individual chosen faces the economic problem as a national issue.

Lunsford said Kentucky has the largest percentage of underinsured people, which adds to the cost of the health care system.

Education, Lunsford said, is his personal passion and can be a great separator.

"I grew up on a farm," he said. "[Education] gave me the opportunity to live the American dream."

Lunsford says he wants the opportunity to take his real world experience and bring it to the U.S. Senate.

He said he wants to invest in health care and education and use his investment skills, which he believes separates him from McConnell.

In the near economic future, Lunsford says he sees several challenges and he believes the next year will be a process.

"I don't think the Bailout Bill was the right way to go," he said. "We have to look at the way we deliver credit in this country."

In the short term, he said, a policy change is needed.

"My vision is when [government] takes care of middle America, the higher class will take care of itself.

"If we drive the economy from middle America," he said, "the economy will look good in five years."

Lunsford says he believes Campbellsville is a great example of how a community can recover from an economic crisis.

"Campbellsville is a great example of what a community can do," he said. "I consider it one great small town success story."

For more information about Lunsford, visit www.bruce2008.com.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.