This whole thing started last year at Kentucky’s biggest political event, the picnic at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in the little hamlet of Fancy Farm, in Graves county in far, far west Kentucky. Mongiardo shows up handing out silver spoons to point out the differences between he and that rich lawyer Jack Conway. Now he didn’t mention at the time that he himself is a surgeon who has invested in real estate nearly as much as Conway, who has a $1.7 million home in Louisville. But the idea is ‘I’m for the poor people; Jack Conway, who’s from Louisville, is for the rich people.’ Conway will dispute that and points out that when he was growing up, his dad, who’s now a very successful lawyer, was a high school teacher and coach who put himself through law school at night—that it was a very middle class upbringing and that his father’s wealth only came later in life.
But the point here is this whole Louisville angle. Kentucky and Louisville don’t always get along with each other. There’s mistrust out there in much of the state, where many look to Lexington more as the urban area they can associate with. It’s partially that Louisville has always been the big city; from the small towns with one stoplight, Louisville is kind of a daunting place. It could be in part racism—there are more African Americans in Louisville then in any other part of the state. It could be a fear of crime; Louisville has a pretty good crime rate for a city of its size, but we had probably seventy murders last year. A lot of these counties have maybe one or two murders a year. They don’t trust Louisville, and fear Louisville to some degree. It’s been generations and generations since a governor has come from Louisville, and the only one in this century actually listed his residence as a small suburb in Jefferson County, outside of Louisville.
Mongiardo is from Hazard, in eastern Kentucky. He grew up very poor, his dad I believe dropped out of high school and did manual labor all his life. His grandfather was a miner. Mongiardo says he grew up in an apartment over a laundromat. Before he was born, his mother had a child who died very young because doctors couldn’t figure out was going on. Hearing this story at a young age, he decided to be a doctor to bring medical care back to eastern Kentucky. He became an ear nose and throat doctor, became chief of surgery and chief of staff, and got into politics after that.
Conway appears to be the one that the Democratic Senatorial committee had wanted in the race, but they’ve not made an endorsement. They saw him as being able to raise the money needed to win this race. There’ve been some real concerns about Mongiardo’s ability to fundraise competitively, especially for a November election.
There isn’t a heck of a lot of difference on political issues. The thing they fight about the most is who is more in support of the health care package, and they’re competing to be strictly right in the middle. It’s really become more of a personality battle.