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It's a tough year for Democrats, yet as in sports, the best defense is often the best offense. And surprisingly, one of our better pickup opportunities is in an unexpected place -- Kentucky.

Republicans are ready to nominate Ron Paul's progeny in this race (Rand), and the Democrats are locked in their own tight nomination battle. We are hesitant to get involved in primaries unless there's a particularly clear choice between an odious Democrat and a better one, and that is certainly the case in this race.

That better Democrat is State Attorney General Jack Conway.

Conway's responses to the Orange to Blue Questionnaire can be found beneath the fold. His environmental and immigration answers are less than ideal, but in tune with voter sentiment in this coal state. Yet reading through the rest of the questionnaire, and the answers paint to a candidate who is courageously progressive for his state.

He is unambiguously for card check, repeal for DADT, and for enacting of a public option or Medicare For All to provide meaningful competition to private health insurance providers. He supports filibuster reform. He is pro-choice.

Can a candidate this progressive really be elected in Kentucky? This one has. In a miserable Democratic year in 2002, Conway came within an eyelash of displacing Congresswoman Anne Northup (a task finally accomplished by John Yarmuth in an exponentially more favorable climate). In 2007, Conway was elected Attorney General with better than 60% of the statewide vote.

Then there’s his primary challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo.

Mongiardo opposed the health care reform bill, proclaiming that he would vote no. He is anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-progress, and proudly so. Watch this snipped from a 2004 campaign ad:

Asked if he would welcome Obama’s help in Kentucky, Mongiardo said:

He certainly can’t come into eastern or western Kentucky and help. Nor would I want him to."

Asked the same question, Conway said he would "welcome him to Kentucky and ... you must always respect the office of the president."

Only one candidate isn’t ashamed of his party. Only one candidate can offer a genuine alternative to Rand Paul and his crazy brand of Teabagger conservatism. Crooks and Liars put together this handy chart to illustrate the differences between Conway and Mongiardo, AND the similarities between Mongiardo and the rest of his state’s odious GOP. It’s not even close, which is why we’re adding Jack Conway to the Orange to Blue fundraising page.

One last story about Conway:

As the state's Attorney General, Conway found himself under intense pressure from GOP state legislators and a wave of teabagger protestors to join the lawsuit filed by several state attorneys general on the reform bill. Not only did Conway refuse to join the lawsuit, he penned an editorial explaining why:

While the lawsuits filed by other state attorneys general to block this new law may make for good Sarah Palin-style "tea party" politics, they are based on questionable legal principles. At a time when the Commonwealth of Kentucky is cutting its budget for education and social services, I will not waste taxpayer resources on a political stunt.

Unfortunately, this rush to the courthouse is nothing new. Historically, opponents of reform have turned to the courts when major legislation with which they disagree is enacted by the Congress. Challenges were brought to the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. All of those laws were upheld.

While Mongiardo is busy cozying up to his state's right-wing, Conway isn't afraid to take on Sarah Palin and the teabaggers.

Jack Conway for United States Senate
Contribute to Jack Conway

DailyKos Orange to Blue Questionnaire – KY-SEN – Jack Conway responses

1) Do you support:

a) A public health insurance option, offered by the federal government and tied to Medicare reimbursement rates plus 5% (H.R. 3200 § 223, as introduced in the House)?

b) The Public Option Act (H.R. 4789), which would allow all citizens to buy into Medicare?

There is a clear choice in the Kentucky Democratic primary for U.S. Senate – I support health care reform and Daniel Mongiardo does not.

We've just passed health care reform and I'm optimistic that the new exchanges and other provisions are going to do great things to expand coverage and lower costs in the next few years.  I think with an issue as complex as health care the details really matter in terms of how we implement the law.

I'm open to considering options like a Medicare-buy-in that would bring younger, healthier adults into Medicare, and take advantage of the efficiencies in Medicare's delivery system. My only requirement would be that I want to make sure any changes to Medicare in the future do not diminish benefits for seniors.

On the other hand, my opponent, Daniel Mongiardo, opposes health care reform. He said we should "stop and start over" – which is exactly the same phrase used by Mitch McConnell. Mongiardo and McConnell have the same position on the law as Rand Paul, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party right-wing extremists who are now trying to repeal health care.

As Kentucky’s Attorney General, I refused to join the Republican Tea Party effort to roll back this historic health care reform with lawsuits based on legal principles that would undermine Social Security and Medicare. I support Social Security, Medicare, and the new health care law. As a United States Senator, I will fight to protect these important programs.

2) Do you support the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 1409/S. 560), including the provision known as "card check"?

I support the Employee Free Choice Act, and believe that unions should be recognized if a majority of employees at a workplace sign cards indicating they wish to organize.

3) Do you support a repeal of the policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (10 U.S.C. § 654)?

I support repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and agree with Secretary of Defense Gates that changing the policy reflects "common sense and common decency."

4) Do you agree that any immigration reform bill should:

a) Contain a meaningful path to citizenship - one that does not include overly-punitive fines or a touchback requirement - for law-abiding undocumented immigrants currently in the United States;

b) Ensure that expanded legal permanent immigration, rather than expansion of temporary worker programs, serves as the United States' primary external answer to workforce shortages; and

c) Ensure that any non-agricultural temporary worker programs maintain current caps on the total number of non-agricultural temporary worker visas issued, and also include a meaningful prevailing wage requirement keyed to the Service Contract Act and Davis-Bacon Act?

The first step to fixing our broken immigration system is to devote more resources to enforcement. For too long the federal government has turned its back on the border, turned a blind eye to businesses hiring illegal immigrants, and left cash-strapped state and local law enforcement agencies with the bill.

Increased enforcement and border protection will prevent additional undocumented aliens from entering the country, but it won’t solve all of the challenges posed by over 11 million undocumented aliens who are already
living and working here in the United States.  To address this reality, we need immigration reform that is tough, fair, and practical.

I believe that undocumented workers who want to emerge from the shadows of the underground economy and participate in American life as legal residents should be able to eventually become citizens.  But in order to preserve the rule of law, undocumented workers should go to the back of the line before they are put on a path to citizenship.

Moving forward we need to build an immigration system that supports legal employment and fair competition.  With official unemployment over 10% in Kentucky and nationwide right now we need a level playing field for workers based on prevailing wage requirements and standard workplace safety rules.

5) Do you think Congress should act to suspend regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency?

I would prefer Congress to pass legislation that addresses climate change instead of having the EPA regulate greenhouse gas emissions. I also support energy conservation such as retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient, and pursuing advanced energy technology like carbon capture and sequestration.

6) If elected to the Senate, do you pledge to restore majority rule to the Senate and work/vote to end the filibuster?

I support filibuster reform because the obstructionist Republican minority has abused the procedure to block all kinds of legislation including common sense, non-controversial issues like extending unemployment benefits. It was embarrassing for our Commonwealth when the junior senator from Kentucky, Jim Bunning, filibustered important unemployment and health insurance benefits for Americans.

Kentucky deserves better than Jim Bunning – that is why I am running for U.S. Senate to create jobs, cut the deficit, and bring accountability to Washington. I will be a U.S. Senator who works across party lines for solutions that help Kentucky working families.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 12:48 PM PDT.

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