Democrats' predictions of unity between Mongiardo and Conway fell short

07/19/2010 05:54 PM

Since Kentucky’s U.S. Senate primaries in May, one storyline has been whether the factions within both parties could put aside their differences after divisive intra-party struggles.

Republicans held a unity rally less than a week after Rand Paul won the Republican nomination, and have moved on despite a sometimes brutally negative primary.

And on May 18, many notable Kentucky Democrats, including State Auditor Crit Luallen and former Gov. Paul Patton, told cn|2 Politics that their party would be unified “tomorrow” even as the election returns for the primary between Jack Conway and Daniel Mongiardo were still coming in. Here’s what those key Democrats had to say then.

Even weeks after primary, Democratic officials — such as Gov. Steve Beshear — insisted everyone would come together soon.

Yet, in mid-July, Conway and Mongiardo still have not patched things up after Conway’s narrow win. Mongiardo has so far declined to endorse Conway. And the two sides have squabbled over whether Conway promised to help Mongiardo retire $80,000 in campaign debt. Conway has denied ever engaging in such a deal, which he previously told cn|2 Politics.

It has reached the point that state Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Logsdon sent a letter to party supporters on Friday saying that the state party will help Mongiardo retire the debt. The hope is that Mongiardo will accept, end his problems with Conway and endorse the Democratic nominee in the U.S. Senate race.

But Kim Geveden, who served as Mongiardo’s spokesman during the primary campaign, hinted that it might not be that easy.

“Dan appreciates the help and support,” Geveden said. “I’m optimistic the party will be united in the fall, but all it is is a statement. Let’s see what that leads too.”

That has created a lingering distraction for Conway, who is facing a tough general election campaign against Paul.

“There’s not much downside to this for Mongiardo, but Conway needs to settle this, he has a lot more to lose,” said Danny Briscoe, a longtime Kentucky political consultant.

With Mongiardo’s public airing of the debt issue, Conway is now in a “Catch-22,” Briscoe said. If he doesn’t help Mongiardo, many in the eastern part of the state will see Conway as dishonest, Briscoe said. But if he does pay off Mongiardo it looks like he bought an endorsement.

And Mongiardo’s endorsement may be watered down already, Briscoe said. So the best thing Conway can do is to help Mongiardo raise money to pay off the debt, get Mongiardo’s endorsement and have both candidates try to “spin as best as possible.”

“I don’t think the average person cares about this,” Briscoe said. But “it never should have become a problem. The longer he waits, the more this story is going to get legs.”

- Kenny Colston


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