Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Exclusive Interview with Bruce Lunsford

Danielle Solzman: Thank you for joining the Kentucky Democrat today. Weather aside, how are things going in Louisville?
Bruce Lunsford: I would say things are great because we’re getting a tremendous amount of early support, but these are serious times in America and in Kentucky. We need change and we need it now. There are a lot of good things happening in Louisville at the city level and Kentucky has a tough and responsible Governor now, but a lot of people here are suffering because of the bad decisions made by the Bush administration and Republican leaders in congress.

DS: When did you officially decide to run for Senate and what factored into that decision?
BL: Running for Senate was a tough decision because it was not something I was looking at until Governor Beshear and Senator Schumer called to encourage me to consider it. I had been prepared to support Crit Luallen or Greg Stumbo if one had decided to run. Frankly, I had really hoped Ben Chandler would have taken McConnell on because I think Ben could beat him hands down but he got a key spot on an important committee for Kentucky after the Democrats took back congress. I took a long, hard look at the race and when it came down to it, the opportunity to take on the Chief Obstructer was too important to turn down. The decision was even tougher because there were already Democrats in the race that I have a lot of respect for, but we all share a desire for change and I’m confident we will have a clean campaign with all the arrows aimed at McConnell.

DS: You served a few years in the Army Reserves and for that, I thank you for your service. How do you feel that the Iraqi situation needs to be handled? With our armed forces stretched so thin, what should happen in the event that America does something about Iran?
BL: I appreciate that, thank you. I think the situation in Iraq has been as poorly managed as the response to Hurricane Katrina. American men and women were sent into an extremely dangerous environment without the tools necessary to do their jobs. In order to put pressure on the Iraqis to stand up and police themselves, we need to put the pressure on to remove our combat troops as soon as it can be done adequately. The Bush Administration has diverted focus from the War on Terror, and now Iran looms as a threat, the Taliban is back in Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden roams free in the mountains. Meanwhile, our men and women in the Reserves are being called to multiple tours of duty, leaving behind families and jobs. The frustration I feel about this war in part pushed me to help produce the film Grace is Gone, which starred John Cusack and won the Audience Award at Sundance last year. As a father of three daughters, the story about a father finding the strength to tell his daughters their mother had been killed in Iraq really hit home for me in more ways than one.

DS: Do you plan to outreach to bloggers or, as they are being called, the netroots? Do you have any thoughts on the way that blogs have revolutionized politics altogether?
BL: Absolutely, we are going to make the blogosphere and the Web in general a big part of our campaign for change. We are going to have a dedicated team of folks working around the clock to engage folks online from Kentucky and across the country. Mitch McConnell is the Senate Republican Leader and the Chief Obstructer in congress. He has the big oil companies and the prescription drug companies on his side, so we need to activate people all over to help beat him. I think blogs have become a tremendous tool for citizen activism that has already proven to have an effect on elections. And love him or not, Mark Nickolas did have a big impact on politics in Kentucky. I took a few on the chin from Mark over the past year but I have a lot of respect for the persistence with which he took on Ernie Fletcher and I think he helped change the course of Fletcher’s term in office.

DS: On that note, and I don't want to get off on the wrong foot here but it was bound to come up sooner, rather than later. Some Kentucky bloggers are trying to make the argument that you are Republican-lite because you donated lots of money to some GOP candidates a few years back. There are a lot of people that have not forgiven you for giving us four years of Ernie Fletcher. What can you say in response to that?
BL: No need to worry, I can admit my mistakes and I don’t take that kind of criticism personally. Endorsing Ernie Fletcher was a mistake and I will continue to apologize to anyone who asks me about that. He had promised to be bipartisan and bring change; he didn’t keep those promises and let all of Kentucky down. Now, I don’t think so highly of myself to believe my endorsement of Fletcher made a difference in that race, but I do understand that my campaign did not approach the Democratic primary the right way in 2003. I took some advice I should not have taken and I learned from that mistake as well, and I think most Democrats would agree they saw a different approach this last year. Regarding the contributions, it is true that I have contributed to some Republican candidates over the years. But the amount of those contributions is small compared to the amount of contributions I have given to Democrats (which is at least $120,000 according to my records). And since the Republican congress cut Medicare in 1997, sending the long-term care industry into a tailspin, 90% of my political contributions have been to Democrats. That said, I believe Kentuckians are looking for less partisanship, not more partisanship. That may not be what some Democrats would prefer to hear but it is just that extreme partisanship that angers average Kentuckians about Mitch McConnell. He is putting his party ahead of Kentucky. That is exactly why we have a chance to beat him in November and it is going to take someone who can reach across the aisle to win.

DS: Do you feel that the state party is heading in the right direction?
BL: Yes, absolutely. I think that with the leadership of Jennifer Moore, Nathan Smith, Jeremy Horton and others, Kentucky is going to see an amazing Democratic turnout in November. I think the youth vote is important to that, and I think that having young, aggressive and professional leadership at the KDP will help make it happen.

DS: How about the national party given the perception in the commonwealth?
BL: Listen, even my Republican friends now understand the Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. And this is such an exciting time for the Democratic Party as we go through the process to select a nominee for president. I’m just having a great time watching this unfold.

DS: Do you think it's possible that the party will make more gains in the US Senate?
BL: I definitely think it is possible. I’ve learned a lot more about what is happening in other parts of the country over the last month and Democrats have some great candidates in places like New Mexico, Colorado, New Hampshire and elsewhere. And Mark Warner in Virginia is as smart as they come, he will be a great Senator. Kentucky has moved up into that top ten list of Senate races and I hope to push that even higher up the list.

DS: You are one of eight seven people that are trying to unseat Mitch McConnell. What is your plan for doing so given the perception of you amongst the party?
BL: Our plan is to make the case for change, pure and simple. Mitch McConnell has been in Washington too long and he has put his party ahead of Kentuckians. You name the issue, and Mitch McConnell probably stands in the way. We want to unite Kentuckians for change so progress can be made on universal health care, getting the economy back on track and ending the Iraq War.

DS: Jon Stewart or Bill O'Reilly?
BL: Are you kidding me? Jon Stewart by ten lengths. Although O’Reilly has his moments of independence, he tends to be entertaining only when you want to get your blood boiling for some reason.

DS: On that note, what is your stance on kittens and woodchippers?
BL: Well, I don’t support the current kitten and woodchippers bill that is headed to the floor of the Senate. McConnell has added way too much pork to the bill. And if he gets his way, all our woodchippers would be made in China and our kittens would be policing the streets of Baghdad. Neither is very good as far as I’m concerned.

DS: You're a film producer. What is your stance on the current writers' strike against the AMPTP?
BL: I’m happy it seems to be wrapping up now. I miss Saturday Night Live.

DS: Who would star in The Bruce Lunsford Story?
BL: How about LeBron James? If only I was a foot taller...

DS: What do you believe should be the three most important priorities for Congress?
BL: My three most important priorities for congress:
1. Getting our economy back on track and balancing the budget.
2. Bringing our troops home safely from Iraq.
3. Fixing the health care system so everyone gets covered.

DS: Thanks for joining the Kentucky Democrat and keep up the good fight!
BL: Thanks for having me and I look forward to working with everyone who wants change!

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