Questions of Fitness for Senate in Kentucky Race


Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) comfortable lead in Bluegrass State polls slipped with media speculation about the 72-year-old’s health last week.

In a debate with his Democratic challenger, State Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, which Bunning participated in by satellite from Washington, the incumbent senator read his opening and closing statements from a TelePrompTer, which Mongiardo’s campaign considered “cheating.”

Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher, had previously said his Italian American opponent looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons. He apologized at the debate, and demanded an apology from Mongiardo for spreading rumors about his health.


After the encounter Monday, Bunning accused Mongiardo’s staffers of assaulting his wife at a picnic last summer.

“It’s one more outlandish and untrue accusation in a long line of bizarre accusations and statements that are unbecoming of a United States senator,” said Kim Geveden, Mongiardo’s campaign manager.

“I understand why Daniel is ashamed to admit it happened, because it is pretty embarrassing and pathetic,” Bunning campaign manager David Young wrote to Associated Press last week about Mongiardo. The Bunning campaign could not be reached for further comment.

Louisville’s Courier-Journal questioned Bunning’s mental faculties in an editorial this week: “The attacks on his opponent, Daniel Mongiardo, and the outrageous statements he has made in his rare public appearances are giving voters pause.... Has Sen. Bunning drifted into territory that indicates a serious health concern?”


Report Rocks Campaign

Another incumbent shaken by scandal is Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.). The third-term congressman’s campaign is contending with an Oregonian investigation last week that revealed allegations that Wu attacked a former girlfriend sexually when the two were students at Stanford University in the 1970s.

Wu has apologized repeatedly for what he called “inexcusable behavior.”

Neither Wu nor the former girlfriend has provided details of the encounter.

Wu’s opponent, Republican Goli Ameri, criticized Wu for the incident during a debate Friday.


“When you are striving to become a leader in your state and you’re a woman, I think it is incumbent upon you to take a stance,” Ameri said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think this is something that women should put up with, whether it happened two hours ago or 28 years ago.”

“It is unfortunate that Goli Ameri would choose to make this an issue in a campaign when there are so many important issues at stake,” said Wu campaign manager Cameron Johnson.


Bowling for Dialogue

There’s one thing that can bring Democrats and Republicans together this election season besides their mutual distrust: bowling.

In this highly polarized election season, political enemies in dozens of states came together over 10 frames and rented shoes this month in the first Great American Meetup Bowl-Off.

Conceived by the Internet community site and the bowling industry, the bowl-off was designed to provide a “rare opportunity ... where people could kind of put down their guns for a couple hours and actually talk with people that they disagree with,” said Scott Heiferman, chief executive and co-founder of

The Bush-backing bowlers won, with an adjusted national score of 175 over 161.


Who’s Counting?

71: Number of feet wide John F. Kerry supporter John Clayton of Hurdle Mills, N.C., cut the Democratic nominee’s name into his yard with a lawn mower, after his Kerry yard sign was stolen.



Duly Quoted

“He says, ‘El Kay-ee-da.’ It went from a terrorist group to a Spanish restaurant.” -- Comic Dean Obeidallah at the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival on Tuesday, on President Bush’s pronunciation of Al Qaeda.

“A couple of more weeks of this stuff and I’ll get ‘em back. I’m nervous. It hurts much more when your son is criticized.”-- Former President George H.W. Bush, speaking about politically related ulcers in an interview last week.


Compiled from staff, Web and wire reports by Times staff researcher Susannah Rosenblatt.