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BY TOM MITSOFF
COVINGTON—Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate, says he has been notified that he may be among "soft" targets for anti-U.S. terrorists.
"I've been criticized for having local police available when I travel this state," Bunning said. "I had the ability to bring in Capitol Hill police. It would have been darn expensive, but I chose to use the Benton police force if I'm in Benton, Ky., or if I'm in McCracken County, we usually use someone from Paducah. There are only special times when I use state police, and usually they are plain clothes and try to stay out of sight.
"But I'm only doing what the Sergeant of Arms of the U.S. Senate told me to do and following (his) directions," he said.
During an interview with The Sunday Challenger Thursday morning, Bunning said he attended a briefing in Washington before the Senate adjourned for its August break during which he was told that "soft targets are the ones that terrorists are looking for. What's softer than a U.S. Senate office or a U.S. Senator walking around?"
U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minnesota, whom Bunning said attended the same briefing, furloughed the staff in his Washington office this week.
"I was told to have a meeting with my staff in Washington and my staff here (in Kentucky) to alert them," Bunning said.
Bunning said he had a more recent briefing 10 days ago that was "even more informative," but did not elaborate on specifics.
Phone calls to Dayton's Minnesota office and to the Sergeant of Arms office seeking confirmation of the conversations were not immediately returned.
During the Thursday interview, Bunning also addressed rumors about his health and his plans should he win re-election in his campaign against Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo, a Kentucky State Senator from Hazard.
"The rumor is rampant that I not only have a terminal illness but I am senile," said Bunning, who turns 73 on Oct. 23. "The only thing that is, is to compare ages. Some people are old when they are 40, and some are young when they are 70."
According to reports, Bunning's personal doctor gave him a clean bill of health this week following a recent medical exam.
Bunning blames the rumors on the Mongiardo campaign.
"It was started during the (former Gov. Paul) Patton administration because the same person who is Mongiardo's campaign manager was Paul Patton's campaign manager," Bunning said.
"It's sad and really disappointing that while Dr. Mongiardo continues to run a positive campaign promoting a positive future for Kentucky that Jim Bunning has to resort to these outrageous and outlandish claims," said Kim Geveden, Mongiardo's campaign manager. Geveden confirmed that he worked on Patton's re-election campaign in 1999, but said he was never an employee of the Patton administration.
"Paul Patton is not the issue here," Geveden said. "This is just another example of the outrageous behavior by Jim Bunning that is unbecoming of a U.S. Senator."
This news story was broken online October 14, 2005, on ChallengerNKY.com, and later published October 17, 2004, in The Sunday Challenger, serving Northern Kentucky.
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