WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | News

Political Newcomer Says He'll Run In U.S. Senate Race

PROSPECT, Ky. (AP) - It was a humble start for a little-known
political newcomer aspiring to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell. Democrat Michael Cassaro was joined by a handful of
supporters Tuesday in announcing his plans to seek the seat held by
the four-term Republican lawmaker.
Cassaro is the first Democrat to declare intentions of running
in next year's race to represent Kentucky in the Senate. Cassaro,
51, is a Louisville-area doctor making his first run for political
office.
"I owe no political favors to anybody," Cassaro said.
Cassaro said his campaign headquarters right now is a spare
bedroom at his father's house. And his announcement was upstaged by
a visit from the nation's best-known politician. President Bush
flew into Louisville on Tuesday for a midday speech just across the
Ohio River in New Albany, Ind.
Yet Cassaro said he was undaunted about running against
well-known politicians and said his experience in private life
would be an advantage.
"I've lived real life," he said. "I've experienced what it's
like to be a common citizen."
The 2008 election is still nearly a year away, yet the Kentucky
Senate race is gearing up. McConnell is seeking re-election and has
been running television commercials for nearly a week. The ads
compare McConnell to Alben Barkley, a Kentucky Democrat who was
Senate majority leader and Harry Truman's vice president.
Another possible candidate, Attorney General Greg Stumbo, said
Tuesday he plans to decide by mid-December whether to enter the
Senate race. Stumbo also took aim at potential Democratic rival
Crit Luallen, saying voters would be turned off if she launched
another campaign right after winning re-election as state auditor.
"I don't think you can take the oath of office for a four-year
term one week and turn around and file for another office the
next," Stumbo said in a phone interview.
Luallen won another term last week with 59 percent of the vote
as Democrats won back the governorship and held onto three other
state constitutional offices. Luallen said last week that she's
"open to future possibilities" but added she's not close to
deciding whether to enter the Senate race.
Responding to Stumbo's comments, Luallen spokesman Jeff Derouen
said, "It is very important that Kentuckians have the choice of
the best possible challenger to Mitch McConnell next year."
Stumbo opted not to seek a second term as attorney general and
instead was the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Bruce
Lunsford. They finished second in this year's Democratic primary.
Stumbo, a former longtime Kentucky House majority leader, has
formed an exploratory committee but hasn't ruled out staying in
state government if offered a job in combating illegal drugs or
environmental protection in Beshear's administration. Stumbo said
he'll do polling in coming weeks to gauge support for a possible
Senate run.
"I think right now that my chances in the spring to get the
nomination, no matter who's in the field, are exceptionally good,"
said Stumbo, whose term as attorney general ends in early January.
Besides Stumbo and Luallen, other Democrats considering a Senate
run next year include Iraq war veteran Andrew Horne and Louisville
businessman Charlie Owen.
Beshear, who takes office on Dec. 11, said a primary election in
the Senate race was not necessarily a negative for Democrats.
Beshear said he would be talking to possible Senate candidates to
"gauge their interest" in the race and did not rule out any
candidates.
"Democrats are known for their primaries, so I'm not sure that
a primary is a negative in terms of a U.S. Senate race," Beshear
said. "But we'll see how all this develops."
Whoever challenges McConnell will have a lot of catching up to
do in fundraising. McConnell had raised more than $9 million
through September and had nearly $7 million on hand.
At his announcement, Cassaro said he would rely on campaign
contributions from supporters.
Cassaro, who treats patients suffering from chronic pain, said
if elected he would bring medical expertise to the health care
debate in Washington. He said patients are underrepresented in the
debate.
"I think I can bring the insight necessary to the Congress to
help turn the tide so we quit taking short-term approaches to the
long-term problem," Cassaro said.
Cassaro also talked about providing tax relief to young married
couples and cracking down on illegal immigration while welcoming
those entering the country legally.
"We need to open our arms to legal immigration, for people that
want to come into this country to work and become Americans," he
said.
--
Associated Press Writer Joe Biesk in Frankfort, Ky., contributed
to this report.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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