Mongiardo to skip Fancy Farm but offers support to Conway in statement

08/04/2010 01:24 PM

(UPDATED 4:25 p.m.) — Democratic Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo abruptly canceled his appearance at this weekend’s Fancy Farm picnic but issued a statement Wednesday expressing blanket support to Democratic candidates, including former rival Jack Conway.

Mongiardo had so far withheld his endorsement from Conway, who narrowly defeated Mongiardo in the May 18 Democratic U.S. Senate primary. It has created an undercurrent of discontent among the Democrats as Conway enters a tough fall race against Republican candidate Rand Paul.

But in a statement e-mailed to reporters by his former campaign spokesman Kim Geveden, Mongiardo offered his endorsement, if a mild one, to Conway and other Democrats.

“I am announcing my support for Democratic candidates on the ticket this fall – from our U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway to down ballot candidates across the commonwealth,” said the last sentence in the five-paragraph statement.

The statement said Mongiardo was skipping the annual Fancy Farm political speaking event because he believed the candidates “on the ballot this fall deserve to have the stage to themselves.”

Geveden did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone by cn|2 Politics.

Mongiardo’s endorsement has been a sore spot between him and Conway after the primary Conway won by less than 1 percentage point. Mongiardo has claimed that Conway’s campaign had promised to retire $80,000 in campaign debt for Mongiardo after the primary, while Conway denied ever making such a deal.

Weeks later, Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Dan Logsdon sent a letter out saying the party would help Mongiardo retire that debt.

Party leaders have been trying to repair the split all summer. Gov. Steve Beshear, who ran on the ticket with Mongiardo in 2007, insisted that Mongiardo would offer his support and campaign for Conway.

The endorsement is a start to heal those wounds on all sides, but perhaps was most important for Mongiardo, said one Democratic observer.

“He’s trying to salvage his position in the party so he has a future,” said Jim Cauley, a Democratic campaign consultant who ran the Beshear-Mongiardo campaign. “In ‘07, the party came together on the Thursday after the Tuesday of the election and I suspect Daniel would have expected no less from Jack had he won.”

In terms of what Conway can expect from Mongiardo, Cauley said it will probably start with “baby steps,” such as Mongiardo staying on message in support of Conway.

Beyond that, “as it gets closer to crunch time, he needs to be out and do his part on the trail,” Cauley said.

UPDATED: Hours after Geveden e-mailed Mongiardo’s announcement, the other key Democrats — Conway, Beshear and Logsdon — dispatched statements of their own thanking the lieutenant governor.

Conway said he was “honored to receive” Mongiardo’s endorsement.

“Daniel isn’t someone who simply talks the talk, he walks the walk,” Conway said. “He ran a strong and passionate campaign — and helped all or us focus on what’s at stake in this election. Daniel has always stood up for the hardworking Kentucky families who are being hammered by this recession, and I look forward to working with him in coming months …”

Here’s Beshear’s statement:

“Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo has always been a fighter for Kentucky’s families – working night and day to lift up Kentuckians in every corner of the state, bring quality jobs to every community and modernize our health care system. That is why he is a Democrat, and that’s why I asked him to be a part of my team, of which he remains a trusted member. I’m very pleased he has endorsed Attorney General Jack Conway for United States Senate. Jack Conway is ready to fight in Washington, D.C. for those Daniel has been working for every day in Kentucky – our struggling families, small businesses, farmers and the disadvantaged.”

“Daniel’s commitment to party unity exemplifies the spirit of the Kentucky Democratic Party. He is an honorable person who is doing the right thing to help ensure Democratic victories in November,” Logsdon’s statement said.

- Ryan Alessi and Kenny Colston


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