PARIS — After acknowledging their rocky past, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler joined former rival and current U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Lunsford on the campaign trail to, as Chandler put it, "get rid" of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
"I'm convinced that Bruce Lunsford will take this country in the right direction," Chandler told more than 100 people, mostly Democrats, in Paris' Stonefence Bistro.
Chandler and Lunsford said they had buried any leftover hard feelings from their vitriolic 2003 primary race for governor. Chandler formally endorsed Lunsford in August, but this was their first joint appearance on the campaign trail.
Chandler said Nov. 4 could represent a "transformational election" that people would be talking about for 100 years. Kentuckians, he added, could play a big role by voting out McConnell, the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate.
A win in the Bluegrass State also could put Democrats at or over the 60-vote mark in that chamber, giving the party a supermajority.
"If we can get to 60, it will remove the ability for Republicans to obstruct policies that are in the best interest of our people," Chandler said.
The significance of that was something both campaigns agreed upon Tuesday.
Republican state Senate President David Williams, who joined McConnell on his campaign bus tour through Eastern Kentucky, said McConnell's election is the second-most important race in the country, behind the presidential contest between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain.
That's because McConnell could be a counterweight to liberal proposals if Obama wins, Williams said.
"If the presidential race doesn't go right, who's going to stop the agenda?" said Williams, McCain's state chairman.
McConnell, meanwhile, continued to impress upon voters the clout he wields, saying in Pineville that "trading me in for a rookie ... would be a massive step back for the commonwealth."
"I'm in the middle of every issue every single day looking for an opportunity to advantage the commonwealth," McConnell told about 75 people outside the Knox County Courthouse.
McConnell said that although the power that comes with seniority is the main issue in his race, the economy is the top issue nationwide. Now, he said, is the time to keep steady hands at the wheel — his included.
But Lunsford told reporters that length of service won't be as important as party affiliation.
"He has no seniority in the Democratic Party and they're going to run the country at least for the next four or six years," said Lunsford, a Louisville businessman. "And we're going to be in economic trouble for a while ... And somebody who understands it like me, I think, is a steadier hand in the game now than he is."